Harrogate Borough Council is developing a new approach to how Sports and Leisure Services are delivered in the Harrogate District.
The changes would see the service come under a new company, controlled by the council. It would give financial savings of around £400K a year and allow facilities to be developed, replaced or expanded.
Harrogate Borough Council operates Sports and Leisure Services, such as The Turkish Baths, 5 swimming pools and many community centres
These services are discretionary services, a local authority is not obliged to provide them.
For the size of the county, Harrogate is well-served with swimming pools.
Some of the facilities are becoming in need of significant maintenance due to being service for many years (Knaresborough Pool for around 30-years, Harrogate Hydro for 20-years)
HBC say they need to protect and invest, with an example already underway in Ripon, moving an old swimming pool to a new sports and pool facility.
It’s also recognised that there is now a much greater demand for gym and studio facilities.
The changes being proposed
To move all services to a Local Authority Controlled Company, LACC.
400 HBC staff to move under the new LACC, they would be transferred with existing rights (TUPE)
The company have a majority/ controlling board of HBC staff.
It would provide an estimated saving of £400K per year due to different tax rules.
The LACC would be free from some of the financial red-tape that councils are tied up with.
Financial savings can be made through business rates relief, improved financial performance and VAT management.
Changing to an LACC it would save the council £000s per year. In addition, there is an estimated £1.3m of recoverable VAT from the Ripon Leisure Centre project by switching to a LACC
Generate more dry facilities with gym and studio facilities, reflecting the change in consumer demand.
It would be able to operate in a more agile way, creating a better offering, generating more foot-fall.
The hydro will be expanded and Knaresborough Pool replaced in a new location, with a bigger pool and gym space.
Will pools be closed ?
No swimming pools have been scheduled for closure with Nidderdale remaining the Hydro being developed, Ripon currently being replaced and Knaresborough planned to be replaced. There are currently no plans to close Starbeck, but it is a much older pool, without dry facilities with an equal split of people attending between Harrogate, Starbeck and Knaresborough.
The proposal recognises the future growth towards the East of the District. With a new settlement, there needs to be a bigger facility, along with gym and studio facilities. If approved, work will start on a new facility for Knaresborough ahead of the new settlement development, with possible locations already identified.
The Hydro needs more “dry space” as the way people use the facility has changed. The facility is coming near to needing significant items of maintenance, requiring the shut-down for 6-months.
Ripon has a new facility being currently built and there are no plans to changed Nidderdale.
Will there be staff cuts ?
HBC say there are no planned jobs cuts and all staff will be transferred under their current terms. However, the situation would be no different if they remained under HBC, meaning that if there were risk to jobs in the future, that risk would be the same within both organisations.
Will ticket entry be increased ?
It’s anticipated that the changes will generate greater foot-fall and greater overall income from that. That would mean that there would be no increases. It is noted in the cabinet report conclusion that HBC have the aspiration of making the Sports and Leisure Services self-financing and also a ticketing pricing structure will be put in place. Decisions, like the pricing structure, would be put before the board, the board made-up of majority HBC. To overprice entry would of course be counterproductive, discouraging people to go.
What are the concerns of the Unions ?
Unison have expressed concerns around the T&C’s of the staff changing, the benefit is gives to service users and why an LACC can save money.
What are the next steps ?
HBC have today released cabinet reports. Those reports will go for approval at Cabinet and Full Council over the next couple of weeks.