Public Questions About City Farm At Next Weeks Full Council Meeting

After the Pits n Pots investigation in to the City Farm Tender earlier this year, which caused the suspension of the tendering process by Stoke-on-Trent City Council, there are still a number of unanswered questions.

Two of which are going to be asked at Thursdays Full Council meeting by John Taylor on behalf of Friends of Bucknall Park City Farm.

Question 4 TENDER ARRANGEMENTS FOR BUCKNALL PARK CITY FARM – From Mr John Taylor on behalf of Friends of Bucknall Park City Farm, addressed to the Cabinet Member for City Services (Councillor Janine Bridges):-

On 21 January 2011 the tender process seeking expressions of interest for the City Farm site was suspended and bidders were told:

‘We are reviewing our approach to the procurement and for a temporary period this has been suspended. A further communication will be sent to you shortly. Thank you for your interest in the City Farm and your patience while we review our approach.’

Is this procurement process now abandoned? If yes please say who took the decision and the date thereof and what bidders were told and the date thereof.

And

Question 5 FUTURE OF BUCKNALL PARK CITY FARM – From Mr John Taylor, on behalf of Friends of Bucknall Park City Farm, Stoke on Trent addressed to the the Cabinet Member for City Services (Councillor Janine Bridges):-

When City Farm closed we were told; The City Council remains committed to finding a new operator for a similar venture for the future.  Is this commitment now binned? If yes please say who took the decision and the date thereof and outline the alternative uses now being considered for the site. If no please outline plans for procurement in terms of specification, lease and timing.

I’m sure there will be many people who will be waiting to see what the answers to these questions are after almost 11 months.

City Farm equipment to be donated to care farm

Stoke-on-Trent City Council is to donate equipment to a local care farm that helps vulnerable groups including those with learning difficulties, disabilities and mental health issues.

The equipment, which was used by the former City Farm in Bucknall, will be given to Sherrats Wood Farm, Middleton Green, Leigh to help them deliver a range of therapeutic and educational activities involving animals and horticulture.

The equipment has been in storage since the farm closed in March 2011, when all the animals were re-homed to other farms in the area.

We have been approached by one of the farms that provided the animals with a new home when the City Farm closed earlier this year.

The equipment could be put to better use somewhere that can be dedicated towards industrial and educational farming, so that’s why we have decided to donate it to Sherrats Wood Farm.

Following a disastrous tendering process, highlighted by Pits n Pots, Stoke-on-Trent City Council closed the City Farm in March. Now the council are again considering becoming land speculators and looking to acquire the land within the farm site not currently in its ownership, and examine future uses for the area.

We have to be clear that the farm is no longer in existence as a city council run service. Anyone looking to take over the site as a farm would need to have the relevant expertise and funding in place to run it on a commercial basis.

If no one can come forward and put a realistic case together, then we would have to look at how best the land could be used by the city council.
“Incorporating the former farm site into the wider Bucknall Park area as public open space is the immediate solution while we examine its future uses and any offers that may come from the private sector.

A Sad, Sad Day for Stoke-on-Trent – Action is Needed In London!

Today is a sad, sad day for our City and for everyone who lives and works here.

This is the day that we say goodbye and bid farewell to a number of much loved services and leisure facilities.

We have already seen the closure of the City Farm. By the end of play today we will lose Park Hall Golf Course, the Dial a Ride scheme, Stoke Recreation Centre, Fenton Library and the cafe at Gladstone Pottery Museum.

Communities are devastated by the closure of Shelton and Tunstall pools which will also close their doors today.

There is talk that a private investor is looking to keep these two amenities open but I know a number of councillors have concerns that this is a viable option.

Officers and certain councillors are desperate to further discussions with the individual concerned and to offer assistance where ever possible. I have seen an email in which the potential investor offers sincere thanks to councillors and officers as they try and present a credible business case and secure the necessary funding.

Only time and rigorous scrutiny will tell whether this offer can be taken seriously and until i’s are dotted and t’s crossed parties are trying to play the matter down for fear of wrongly building up the hopes of the action groups and communities concerned.

Politically, opponents are keen to blame the city council’s ruling coalition of Labour, Conservative & Independent Alliance, Liberal Democrats and the City Independent Group for these unprecedented cuts.

Out on the streets though it is a very different matter. The general public are in no doubt as to who is exactly to blame.

The electorate hold the national coalition 100% responsible, everyone I have talked to is angry at the level and speed of these cuts.

For me, it is way too much, way too soon. The fact that we are at the start of what can only be described as a public sector cull, puts our country’s recovery from the worst recession in modern history at risk.

Take out the disposable income of the vast number of people who are about to be thrown out onto the scrap heap with the only prospect of landing squarely on the dole queue, and the knock on effect on the economy could be disastrous.

Meanwhile back on the mean streets of Stoke-on-Trent, the effect of these cuts is biting at the very front end of our society. No one is left untouched, the elderly, children, the disabled and the most vulnerable are all to suffer for the indiscretions and downright financial mismanagement of a large number of bankers who thought that they had a god given right to play a game of poker with the worlds finances.

And what has been the effect on the very individuals that put us in this mess in the first place? They are to be rewarded with unbelievably high bonuses often paid out by near state owned financial institutions.

Action groups will carry on fighting for the services and
facilities that they want to save and I pray that there is some success to be had.

£35million pounds have been wiped out of the budget for the upcoming financial year with the inevitability that another £20million will follow next year.

Our elected representatives have faced up to their responsibilities; officers of the council have administrated the cuts based on the balance sheet in front of them. The objectives? To save, to cut, to reduce and to merge services and facilities knowing that their actions are going to hurt the very people they seek to serve.

There have been those both inside the chamber and out in the political scene at large, that have sought to make political gain from the fact that Stoke-on-Trent City Council has had to make cuts. Indeed I know that certain individuals have been told to stay away from the Tunstall Pool Action Group meetings because their number one priority was to make political gain from the fight.

As much as we pontificate locally, in reality we all know there is little we can do to influence the level of cuts metered out to the public of Stoke-on-Trent.

Direct action on a national level is the only sensible recourse to voice our discontent and complete bewilderment over these unprecedented and unnecessary cuts.

The public have to take the issue up with the organ grinder [the national coalition government] as opposed to the monkey [Stoke-on-Trent City councillors], for it is them that have decided to decimate the funding to our City.

The protests in London last weekend attracted in the region of 450,000 people and but for a few hundred anarchists and complete nut jobs they were hugely successful in delivering a very direct message to this government.

That message is very loud and very clear ““ There is an alternative!

Peaceful, direct and unwavering protests on the largest scale imaginable would send a clear concise warning and in my humble opinion is the only way to save the services and facilities we value in this city.

So, in summary to save Stoke, we must march via London and parliament square for it is there that the true perpetrators reside.

City Farm: A Tale of Council Failure

If Stoke-on-Trent City Farm in Bucknall had been an animal, the RSPCA would have turned up long ago, taken it into care, and prosecuted its owner for cruelty and neglect.

Don’t get me wrong, the staff at the farm have been excellent, both in looking after the animals and welcoming visitors to the facility. Thousands upon thousands of children, parents and grandparents have enjoyed this popular visitor attraction over many, many years.

In the summer of 2010 a national newspaper, The Guardian, placed it in their top 10 places to visit with children, describing it as a “gem”. Here what it had to say:


Poor old Stoke does not get into many top tens but in their city farm they have a real treasure. Tucked into the south-east corner of Bucknall Park, the farm is home to llamas, kune kune pigs, chipmunks and a glorious sweep of domestic fauna. There’s also a sensory garden to thrill and tantalise all five senses. For afters, Bucknall Park has a children’s playground and, in the summer, a cafe too.

The Council Leader, Pervez, would have us believe that its closure is down to the governments severe cuts in finance. Anybody that has observed or been involved in recent years with the City Farm will know that its demise is at best a case of indifferent carelessness, or at worst a deliberate, lengthy painful cull ““ starved until it could survive no more.

Regeneration has been a top priority within Stoke-on-Trent with varying degrees of success and failure. However, this obsession with regeneration must not blind us nor lead us to neglect the treasures we already possess.

Take a good look around our neighborhoods, our towns and our City. Long gone is that smokey, choking caldron of industry. In its place greenery, open spaces and our majestic plethora of Victorian Parks. Shouldn’t this be at the very core of our regeneration efforts, instead of being seen as an expensive and not needed luxury?

Far too much of the momentum for regeneration in Stoke-on-Trent is based on “demolish the past ““ build the new”. Surely good sustainable regeneration is about taking what best from the past and putting it to a sustainable, modern, relevant purpose.

In early 2008 City Farm was threatened with Closure ““ the Save Dimensions campaign was gaining strength.

A Friends of the Farm group was set up ““ a new one every year since ““ and the ward councillors paid for a consultants report to establish a sunstainable way forward for the City Farm.

In 2008 £10k from the ward budget of Cllr Adrian Knapper, Rita Dale and John Davis employed consultants from the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens to come up with recommendations aimed at keeping the facility open, enhancing it and making it a viable sustainable enterprise.

Yet this expensive and valuable report went nowhere.

Two draft reports meant for Mark Meredith’s EMB, with current Cabinet member Debra Gratton’s name on them, were blocked and never saw the light of day. The ward councillors appear to have forgotten about the report.

In essence, City Farm should have and could have been put on the road to self sustainability, and keep well out of the way of this year’s unfortunate cuts.

Instead it has now closed.

Our strategic management of this park and farm appears to have been non-existent ““ the only thing they have tried to do from an officer perspective is either close it or move it.

City Farm is not closing because of the Coalition Government cuts. It is not closing because the council has got to make savings. It is not closing because of lack of visitors or poor staffing.

It is closing because Council management have wanted it shut for years, and the three ward councillors FAILED to follow up on their initial investment of £10,000 on a consultants report. Public they spent and then wasted.

Pervez and many of his Cabinet were in senior positions in 2008 and since that should have and could have preserved the City Farm ““ so stop blaming the Coalition Government.

For me the blame clearly lies with the three ward councillors ““ Knapper, Dale, J. Davis ““ Pervez (Deputy Elected Mayor in 2008) and Debra Gratton.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council Approve £35million Cuts Budget

Stoke-on-Trent City Council set their budget today [Thursday] following a long and sometimes heated debate.

The motion in moving the budget, which includes cuts of some £35million and the closures of several key facilities, was eventually won by 40 votes in favour to 13 votes against.

In voting to accept the budget proposals, councillors have agreed to the closure of Shelton Pool, Burslem & Fenton Libraries, Park Hall Golf Course, 2 elderley care provisions and other valued services and public amenities.

Unless viable business proposals are submitted by community groups or social enterprises the city could also lose Ford Green Hall, the City Farm, Etruria Industrial Museum and the much publicised Tunstall Pool.

It was not all doom and gloom however as the council have confirmed that it is to retain all the City’s Children Centres, Stoke Speaks Out, Shopmobility and all Local Centres.

In moving the motion to commend the Budget, Council Leader Mohammed Pervez said that it was imperative that the council set a legal and balanced budget. He also confirmed that there is to be no Council Tax rise in the next municipal year.

Cllr Pervez told the chamber that it had been a long and hard road to get to the point where the cabinet were able to recommend this budget. He reminded the chamber that the council could not allow petty arguments to derail the process of agreeing this budget.

He said that the cabinet and the officers of the council had been composed, collected and considered as well as open and transparent during the consultation and the budget setting process.

Cllr Pervez reminded the chamber that Stoke-on-Trent City Council had been the 8th hardest hit authority in the country and that those councillors who had accused the cabinet of scaremongering should be glad that they had prepared for the worse case scenario.

The Community Voice group moved an amendment calling for a postponement in setting the budget as they believed that there had been insufficient Equality Impact Assessments carried out on all the budget proposals.

Community Voice spokesman Cllr Mike Barnes, said that the council needed to minimise risk and should heed the legal challenges relating to Equality Impact across other authorities across the country.

Cllr Barnes urged the cabinet to accept the need to dot every I and cross every “Ëœt’.

He condemned the documentation produced to support the budget proposals for failing to mention Equality.

Fellow Community Voice Councillor Mick Salih criticised the cabinet and council officers for not handing round the printed amendment to the substantive motion before the meeting.

He also stated that he was unable to support the budget because there were a number of proposals in it that were still under negotiation. He said that it would be wrong to pass an holistic budget when a large amount of the fine detail was not known.

Deputy Council Leader Ross Irving [Conservative] said that legal clarification was necessary and suggested that the legal officer should address the chamber and give his opinion on whether there was an issue with regards to Equality Impact.

Paul Hackney gave a long and detailed assessment of the situation and concluded that in his opinion the Council had carried out the necessary assessments with regard to Equality and that they has shown due regard during the budget consultations, overview and scrutiny processes and in the final proposals.

Community Voice’s amendment was defeated heavily.

There was a long, passionate, heated and sometimes angry debate in the chamber on the substantive motion of adopting the budget proposals.

The debate was divided between primarily those councillors in the four-way coalition parties of Labour, Conservative and Independent Allliance, Liberal Democrat and City Independent Group [apart from Cllr Dave Conway who refused to support the budget] and those councillors in opposition.

The coalition councillors condemned the opposition councillors, especially the Community Voice group, for playing to the public gallery and for not providing an alternative to the budget proposals.

The opposition councillors especially Community Voice criticised the coalition for not listening to the residents of the city.

Cllr Peter Kent-Baguley accused the cabinet of lacking political judgement and of having no clear criteria in setting this budget.

Cabinet Councillors rebuked the accusations by saying that the criteria was always to protect the most vulnerable and needy in the city.

This meeting was one of the longest in recent times. Passions and emotions were running high. Coalition councillors constantly referred to the need to accept the financial situation imposed on the city by the National Coalition Government.
Coalition Councillors also spoke about taking political responsibility and demonstrating clear leadership in formulating this budget.

Opposition Councillors spoke of the hardship that the citizens and residents of the city will have to endure as a result of these levels of cuts.

No matter what the political persuasion it was evident that the burden of public duty was wearing hard on all the councillors within the chamber.

The opposition councillors gave it heir best shot and the coalition councillors stood firm in the face of adversity and backed their cabinet colleagues.

We have a series of Audio Interviews to bring you.

First one is with Cllr Mike Barnes from the Community Voice group who explains why they were seeking a postponement of a budget decision. This was recorded before the meeting.

Then we hear from Matt Wright from the Socialist Party who explains why his North Staffs Against Cuts group were urging councillors to reject the budget proposals.

A member of the Socialist Workers Party was ejected from the council chamber during the meeting for causing a disturbance.

Next up we hear from Liz from Trent Vale who was also asked to leave the chamber for trying [very peacefully] to address the councillors in the chamber to get support for Shelton Pool and from a member of the action group fighting to save Shelton Pool.

And finally we hear from the four leaders of the coalition groups on the City Council, Cllr Mohammed Pervez [Labour], Cllr Ross Irving [Conservative & IA], Cllr Kieran Clarke [Lib Dem] and Cllr Brian Ward [City Independents] who give their reaction to winning the vote on the budget.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council Cabinet Propose Retention of All Children’s Centres

Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s Cabinet are proposing the retention of all 16 Children’s Centres after listening to public concerns and the 6000 strong petition organised by the Save Our Children Centre’s group headed by Millissa Beydilli.

Whilst the Cabinet are proposing to save the Children’s Centres, the award winning Stoke Speaks Out service, short breaks for the disabled and carers, the Merit Pupil referral service and 24/7 CCTV coverage, they have also confirmed their intention to close several key facilities.

Although the Children’s Centres have been saved Council Leader Mohammed Pervez would give no guarantee that staff jobs would be saved. He also gave an indication that there may be a reorganisation of the Children’s Centres management structure.

The decision to close Shelton and Tunstall pools, Fenton and Burslem Libraries and the Heathside and Eardley Care Homes was also announced.

There is a six month stay of execution for education establishments Ford Green Hall, Etruria Industrial Museum and Stanley Head whilst the council explores the possibility of the transferring them to a community trust or social enterprise.

The future also looks brighter for Meir Community and Education Centre and for Northwood Stadium.

The Meir looks set to retain their community centre after the council leader announced that the council was looking to transfer more services into the popular facility.

The popular service Shopmobility, located at the Potteries Shopping Centre, will also be saved.

Mohammed Pervez confirmed that users have offered to pay for the service and the council are happy to go along with that proposal.

Northwood Stadium is not closing at this stage.

The Future of the City Farm looks bleak however. The Council Leader, Mohammed Pervez confirmed that the council did not consider the farm as a priority and indicated that the council had no statutory obligation to deliver such a service.

The tender to transfer the farm to an independent operator was suspended amidst a dispute over the ownership of the land. Whist the tender is likely to be re-instated at some stage, the feeling is that there would be a lack of interested parties coming forward to take over what was consider by the Guardian Newspaper a top 10 free attraction in the country just a few years ago.

There was also good news for every household in the City.
The Council Leader announced that Council Tax will be frozen for the next year.

The City Council will take up the governments offer a 2.5% grant which will realise £2million to the local authority.

Mohammed Pervez said that this decision was taken because the Cabinet considered that families were already under pressure following the impact of the recent VAT rise to 20%.

In presenting these proposals, the council leader said that he and his cabinet, along with the CEO John van de Laarschot and his officers, had listened to feedback from the public, elected members and members of the City Council’s staff.

Despite today’s announcements it is still expected that 700 staff will leave the employment of the City Council over the next few months through voluntary or compulsory redundancies.

The City Council are facing a gap in funding of £35.6million for the next financial year.

The national coalition government implemented cuts of 8.1% upon the City of Stoke-on-Trent which when the council factored in the reductions in area based and other grant funding, actually resulted in a bigger percentage cut.

Mohammed Pervez was keen to point out that he had pleaded the case that Stoke-on-Trent was a special case with the government but in his words “Ëœthose pleas fell on deaf ears’.

Pervez said that he had written to government on numerous occasions, he had visited London and held talks with a junior minister working in Local Government and Communities Minister Eric Pickles’s team and had joined forces with other authorities namely Blackpool, Blackburn, Hull and Torbay, but to no avail. Stoke-on-Trent was still one of the worse hit areas for cuts in funding.

The council leader also said that this budget consultation had been the most thorough than any before. He and his cabinet claim that they had taken into consideration the feedback from the “ËœLet’s Talk’ consultations and the comments made during his live web debate exclusively on Pits n Pots when making these difficult decisions.

Members of the City council staff had also been given the opportunity to have their say as a part of the “ËœTell John’ exercise held by the CEO John van de Laarschot.

These proposals will now be put in front of all the political groups and presented to all elected members ahead of the Budget Meeting of the Full City Council to be held on the 24th February.

The meeting will be webcast on the Council Website.

After the briefing Council Leader Mohammed Pervez and CEO John van de Laarschot gave their views.

Listen to the audio below.

City Farm Tender Suspended & Reports Hidden From Elected Members

After the Pits n Pots investigation in to the City Farm tender from Stoke-on-Trent City Council, we have been told that meetings have taken place between Sarah Hill & Jane Forshaw to discuss the debacle which culminated with the tender being suspended:

Broadcast message to all tenderers;

We are reviewing our approach to the procurement and for a temporary period this has been suspended. A further communication will be sent to you shortly.

Thank you for your interest in the City Farm and your patience while we review our approach.

Pits n Pots have also been given copies of 2 reports that should have been presented to the EMB and Elected members but for whatever reason never saw the light of day.

We have also been given a copy of a report by the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens, which was commissioned by Stoke-on-Trent City Council at a reported cost of £10,000. we can find no evidence of this report ever being given to the Elected Members.

We have asked Stoke-on-Trent City Council for a statement on these reports but they have not yet responded.

Joke-on-Trent

It seems that Stoke-on-Trent City Council are quickly returning to the old Joke-on-Trent ways for 2011.

Last night I downloaded the document pack for the City Farm tender and was amazed, not in a good way I may add.

The 18mb Specification Requirements document is one of the worst formatted documents I have seen in a long time. The document shows all the edits made by different people, has tables and images that don’t fit on the page.

What is more worrying is the deed of agreement drawn up by Paul Hackney the Head of Legal Services. Again this is sent out with all the copy & paste edits clearly visible throughout. The Deed of Agreement is one of the documents that you would use as a foundation to your tender, it is the legal contract between you and the council.

At the end of the document where it would be signed the usual Stoke-on-Trent has been replaced by STOKEONTRENT.

Presentation is everything and speaks volumes about the organisation or the person you are dealing with, potential suppliers who look at these documents will not think they are dealing with a forward looking council striving to improve.

Have a look at the documents below and tell me if you think they are something that has been produced by an organisation that is proud of their city.

We have asked the City Council for a comment from both the Head of Legal Services & the Portfolio Holder on the tender documents. Last night the portfolio holder Sarah Hill left this comment on the site:

Mike,
Your comment that you were amazed and not in a a good way is as nothing as to how I, the cabinet member with responsibility for this, feel. I’m absolutely furious and very embarrassed. As a number of posters have pointed out this is not what the City needs if people are to take us seriously.

There will be a press statement in the morning (it’s late and I’ve not long got in) but I want to make it absolutely clear that the matter is being dealt with very seriously.

and this morning the following statement was issued from the Press Office:

I can only apologise for this obvious and embarrassing mistake on the unacceptable presentation and standard of these important tender documents. I totally agree there should have been safeguards in place to prevent this, I have asked for this to be the case in future tender documents.
 
I want to be clear all tenders received will be accepted as part of the normal tender process regardless of formatting this will not affect the tender process.

[Upadate 11 Jan 14:15]
I have edited this slightly to remove references to the legality of the contract, as the Head of Legal Services at the City Council believes that it is a legally binding contract, despite changing from City Farm Bucknall Park to Carmoutside Cemetery part way through and changing the term of the tender from 5 years to 3 years.

Minimum £250,000 Investment Required For City Farm Tender

As part of the budget cuts and cost savings being implemented by Stoke-on-Trent City Council the City Farm at Bucknall Park is being put out to tender.

The City Farm which was quoted in

Poor old Stoke does not get into many top tens but in their city farm they have a real treasure. Tucked into the south-east corner of Bucknall Park, the farm is home to llamas, kune kune pigs, chipmunks and a glorious sweep of domestic fauna. There’s also a sensory garden to thrill and tantalise all five senses. For afters, Bucknall Park has a children’s playground and, in the summer, a cafe too

seems doomed to close as part of the deep cost savings being made by Stoke-on-Trent City Council.

According to the tender document pack, (which is one of the worst compiled packs of documents I have set eyes upon in a long time), the City Farm costs £178,519.24 to run in the 2010/11 financial year while. A majority of this cost is salaries for the 5 staff. The park does apparently generate a small income of just under £4000 this is in the form of donations of £2000 and sales of livestock, animal feed & bedding.

The tender is for 5 years with an option to extend to 7 years, although the Deed Of Agreement supplied in the tender pack, gives details of a 3 year contract to lease buildings at Carmountside Cemetery.

As well as the £178,500 annual running costs, anyone wishing to tender to run the City Farm will need to cover the costs of:

Repairs totalling £219,200
£34700 Stable Block
£12,000 Farm Lodge
£750 New Stable Block
£750 Toilets
£150,000 Bridge*

*Initially the tender document quotes £150,000 for repairs to the bridge, however Annex 12 of the document gives a breakdown of costs estimates for repairs to the bridge totalling £171,000

Infrastructure

In addition to the issues concerning the bridge over the River Trent, most of the Farm’s existing timber fencing around and between enclosures is in a poor condition and needs replacing. In addition, the Farm does not have a completely secure perimeter fence, potentially leaving it vulnerable to vandalism and theft.

The majority of footpaths around the Farm are in poor condition and require significant resurfacing work to make them safe and / or suitable for people with disabilities.

If there was any further selling point needed for this business venture, the following paragraphs sum it up nicely.

The River Trent runs through the south west side of the park, forming a boundary between park and farm for some of its length. Unsurprisingly much of the park is low lying, particularly the southern half, and there are associated drainage issues. The Farm has little in the way of installed land drains, the only form of drainage being soa-kaways[sic]. Consequently this frequently leads to problems with surface water pooling and some paddocks and fields becoming waterlogged.

So a minimum investment of around £250,000 is required for the leasehold of the City Farm, although,

Recent consultation with visitors to Bucknall Park has confirmed: 75% of existing visitors are prepared to pay an entrance fee, no one was prepared to pay more than £2.50 for a family, the average an individual was prepared to pay was 50p, 62% travel to the the farm by car, 66% only stay between 30 mins to 90 mins, 59% of visitors to Bucknall park do not visit the farm they visit the playground area or walk their dogs. From the above it would be difficult to charge the necessary entrance fee that would put the farm in a break even position. To breakeven would require the current estimated number of visitors (89,600) each to pay £2 every visit, every time, irrespective of age or ability. If we take out children & OAPs the fee is more likely to be £6 for every adult for every visit in order to breakeven. As most visitors travel by car there are existing facilities within a 30 minute drive: Blackbrook Zoo, Amerton Farm and Shugborough Park Farm. These facilities are– all excellent and Amerton farm is free. In order to compete or to implement an entrance fee providing value for money would require a minimum capital investment of circa £740k.

Return On Your Investment

So how do you get a return on your investment and cover the annual running costs of £178,500?

The farm is required to be open every day of the year apart from Christmas, Boxing & New Years days, so 362 days. On each one of these days you would need to take £493.14 just to pay the staff and keep the farm open before you start getting any return on your investment of between £250,000 & £740,000.

Admission Fees

According to the information in the tender document, the city council carried out a survey of visitors between June & September 2010, the figures are

for guidance purpose only and no guarantees can be given regarding the accuracy of the information supplied.

In the 88 days of the visitor numbers being counted (9 July – 4 October) there were 34,700 visitors to the City Farm or an average of 395 per day. This is somewhat higher than the previously quoted average annual visitor figures are 89.600 or 248 per day.

It is worth noting that school visits to the farm are free of charge and almost certainly there will have been school visits included in the count of visitor numbers.

Any charging policy you implement as part of the tender need to be affordable to all groups and is one of the evaluation criteria that tenders are scored on.

Farm Cafe

There is a café operating in the grounds of the park (refer Annex 4) that is not included in this tender. It is understood the café operator does not have exclusive selling rights in the Park but this would need to be verified by the Operator prior to undertaking any similar operations.

So you could sell refreshments but nobody is really sure.

If you are interested in taking the farm on as a going concern you need to get your skates on the tender closes on 28 January 2011, so not long to get your business plan together.

Tender to be advertised for Stoke-on-Trent’s City Farm

Stoke-on-Trent City Council is to invite groups to express an interest in running the City Farm.

The tender for the running of the facility will be advertised through the local media on 7 January 2011. The proposed period is for five years beginning early in 2011.

Anyone wishing to tender for the contract should go to www.wmcoe.bravosolution.co.uk and register for project number 18003, ITT reference 29044.

Closing date for submissions is 2pm Friday 28 January 2011.

Within the city council’s budget setting process, the City Farm is proposed to close unless an alternative source of funding could be found.

“We understand that this is an emotive subject for many people ““ but we need to take some prudent steps to put in place a back-up plan should the budget proposal be approved in February. Identifying interested groups is key in this so we need to advertise the tender. To wait until after 24 February when a decision is made would leave no time to source alternative funding options.

“But I must stress no decision has yet been made on the budget these are still proposals.”