Harrogate Borough Council (HBC) will today look at final approval for a £1.2 million investment in the Harrogate International Centre (HIC).
Final approval for the spend will go before the HBC Cabinet this evening (14 December 2016), but officers recommendations are for approval.
The spend is for a number of maintenance and improvements of the HIC, the Royal Hall and Sun Pavillions, with the majority of the budget coming from Investment Reserves.
The HIC last saw a profit in 2009, with a tough marketplace being cited by them as the reasons for the performance.
To April 2015, the HIC declared a £270K profit, although this was on the back of a business rates rebate of £450K
The HIC was also not in profit for year end April 2016 and a profit is not forecast for year to April 2017.
But should we, as the public, be concerned about this very significant budget ?
The HIC and HBC’s justification for the spend is centred around looking at the bigger picture.
In common with every other conference centre in the country, the HIC has not made a profit in recent times, but there is an overall gain to the town.
This year it is projected that the Conference Centre will bring £60 million of additional spending into Harrogate and support jobs which would not exist without the conference centre.
HBC say the conference centre is not designed to ‘make a profit for councils’ and and if you looked at it in that way then it would close – that doesn’t mean that they are not working to make it profitable of course.
If you look at all council services through the pure ‘make a profit’ eye glass then they would close services such as the swimming pools, trade waste service or the tips.The Conference Centre is there to bring investment in to the local economy and support local employment – not to bring cash into the Council and support Council jobs.
If Harrogate lost the HIC the town could well become like many of the tired seaside towns.
So should we be concerned ?
£1.2 million is a lot of money, a figure that I am sure HBC would sooner either not spend at all or put to other services. The HIC has come under much criticism and often used for political posturing around elections. It has tended to create misinformation.
Harrogate needs the HIC and this is part of what should be short-term measures to ensure its future.