There were unprecedented scenes last night (16th November) at the Council’s Cabinet meeting with the majority of Harrogate International Centre (HIC) employees together with former employees and members of the public attending.
Such were the numbers that the meeting had to be re-located to the main Council Chamber to accommodate everyone.
A report by the Director of HIC, Angus Houston was tabled before the the Cabinet. It recommended outsourcing of many services, a proposal to delegate authority to the Director of HIC for tendering purposes and a further review that threatens more job cuts at the centre.
Prior to the meeting UNISON, at both Branch and Regional level, had written to the Council to question the legality of the delegation proposal and the lack of a business case for outsourcing.
In a highly charged atmosphere, cabinet, observed by the very staff who will be affected by the proposed recommendations, asked questions of the Director and discussed the implications of the proposed recommendations.
The Cabinet agreed to amendments of all three of the original. The key change is that although the Cabinet acknowledge the need for change within HIC, they have agreed that change in a more considered way and insisted on a tender process with reports back to them.
Approved at this meeting were:-
- That HIC undertake a tender process to investigate outsourcing a number of operational services to achieve more flexible delivery of event services in line with variable venue occupancy levels and produce anticipated savings of £0.5m.
- That an exemption from Contract Procedure Rules 2.1.3 be approved to enable the Director HIC, in consultation with the Leader of the Council and the Cabinet Member for Finance, to finalise the method of tendering for the various services outlined and that a further report be made to Cabinet to determine the acceptance or otherwise of the tenders received.
- That in addition to any proposed outsourcing, the HIC Director review the staffing structure of the retained functions in order to reflect future business requirements.
The HIC had originally asked for a an exemption from rule 9.2.6, but this was declined by Cabinet.
Rule 9.2.6. states that ‘In all cases, the approval of Cabinet is required for the acceptance of the most economically advantageous tender where the estimated value exceeds £500,000.
Rule 2.1.3. says ‘In all Contracts where the estimated value of a proposed contract is equal to or exceeds £500,000 the Cabinet shall determine the method of tendering ….subject to compliance with EU public procurement regime.’
Leader of the Council, Don Mackenzie said:
My Cabinet colleagues were impressed by the attendance of so many HIC staff at our meeting last evening.
As far as the report before us was concerned, we accepted the overall case made by the Director of HIC that urgent action needs to be taken to reduce fixed costs when sales turnover has fallen. We agreed that the Director should proceed with his outsourcing proposals.
Responses to the invitations to tender will be brought back to Cabinet to evaluate.
Above all, we support the Director’s intention to make the business more efficient, better able to manage busy and quiet periods of activity, and to make the venue one of the best in the country.
Our first responsibility is to our residents and taxpayers, who elected us to ensure that the council is well run, that excellent services are provided, and that best value for money is given.
The losses currently being incurred by HIC are unacceptable, and we accepted that a combination of increasing turnover and reducing fixed costs is essential in restoring HIC to profitability.