: Waiting for next track...

: Waiting for next track...

Harrogate Borough Council criticised over leisure consultation

Harrogate Borough Council criticised over leisure consultation

Published by Lisa Darvill with contributions by Local Democracy Reporter Jacob Webster at 1:37pm 11th June 2020.

Harrogate Borough Council is facing fresh criticism over the way it handled a consultation on plans to overhaul its leisure services.

The authority has this week laid out proposals to create a council-owned company to run its 11 leisure venues in Harrogate, Knaresborough, Ripon and Pateley Bridge.

But while the move to set up a Local Authority Controlled Company (LACC) was first drawn up two years ago, the council only started consulting with taxpayers last month.

And almost half of those who responded to the survey said it was a bad idea.

Now the plans are recommended for approval at a meeting next week, David Houlgate, branch secretary at UNISON Harrogate, says he has been left wondering “what the point” of the four-week consultation was.

He said: 

“We have seen the council report and it would appear that this decision was actually taken last year, so we do wonder what the point of the recent resident’s survey was”.

Out of 433 people who responded to the survey, 46 per cent disagreed with the plans.

27 per cent agreed with the LACC idea, whilst the same amount did not give an opinion.

The council – which is currently facing a £15million deficit as a result of the pandemic – says it could save between £400,000 and £600,000 a year under the plans.

But it will cost the council around £300,000 in management and branding costs to get the project off the ground.

It wants to use the savings to upgrade some of its leisure venues with better changing and gym facilities.

The council is also looking to build a new Knaresborough leisure centre at Conyngham Hall.

It will also refurbish the Hydro in Harrogate and complete upgrades at Ripon Spa Baths by September 2021.

But Starbeck Baths – Harrogate’s oldest swimming pool –could be closed for good following the redevelopment of its other pools and gyms.

Mr Houlgate, who represents hundreds of the council’s lowest paid workers, had criticised the council for not keeping him informed as the plans progressed.

Some 400 members of staff would be transferred across to the LACC under the plans – and Mr Houlgate said the council has now “at last” started to engage in talks.

The council previously said “to expect a running commentary while a report is prepared for councillors to consider at next week’s meeting of cabinet is unrealistic.”

Six council officers or elected members – to be chosen next week – would be given roles as non-executive directors under the plans, as well as three company executive appointments.

The role of a managing director will also be created.

The plans will be discussed by councillors at a meeting of the cabinet on June 17, before full council on July 8.