Harrogate Borough Council have taken a step forward with placing the Sports and Leisure Services under a new limited company.
The plans have been approved by the Council Cabinet and will now go to Full Council for a vote from all Councillors.
The changes would see Sports and Leisure come under a new company, giving VAT benefits and a business that is more agile. The Board would have a majority of HBC control and staff would retain current employment conditions.
Liberal Democrat councillors have hit out by saying that there has ‘abysmal lack of communication’ and have called for reassurances before support can be given.
- Councillors have not been offered a briefing until Monday 29 June
- The public consultation was run during lockdown
- That concerns have been raised many concerns that appear to have fallen on deaf ears
- That many people were unaware of the consultations even existing members of the Harrogate Borough Council leisure facilities
HBC gave an online briefing to local media on 9 June 2020 and has been receptive to press questions on the changes.
The Libdem are asking for the following:
- The company board must be fully transparent and accountable, with major decisions being made by Full Council
- Prices must be affordable, with an introduction of concessionary rates to allow less well-off people to easily access the services
- Profits must be invested back into leisure services, not using leisure services as a cash cow to offset costs elsewhere
- Current services must be protected, especially Starbeck Baths
- Knaresborough Pool should be built on the current site, while not affecting service offered by the current building
- The service must be brought back in-house if the company gets into financial trouble
- Current workers must be protected and new staff must have the same pay and conditions
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Councillor Stanley Lumley, Harrogate Borough Council’s cabinet member for culture, tourism and sport, said:
We haven’t taken this decision lightly. It has been the culmination of a lot of work exploring the benefits becoming a local authority controlled company has to offer.
I’m delighted that this, and our sport and leisure investment strategy, have been approved by the cabinet. They will not only offer nearly £300k worth of savings per year, but it also shows the level of investment we the local authority, not a private company, are providing to improve the health, fitness and wellbeing provision for residents across the district.
You’ve only got to look at the work taking place at Ripon Leisure Centre, and the investment we are making there, to show you our dedication to make it our services fit for the 21st century and beyond.
Councillor Pat Marsh said:
It is hard to argue with the VAT savings that this proposal could bring, though the abysmal lack of communication we have seen gives me no reassurance that this will be as transparent and accountable as it needs to be.
If this is to go ahead it must be done with very little day-to-day difference within the service.
It must be about delivering a quality service, not a profit-hungry corporation. It must remain affordable, with prices not increasing beyond inflation. It must guarantee the protection of services, especially Starbeck Baths. It must be transparent and accountable, with major decisions being made by full council. Current workers must be protected and new staff must receive the same pay and conditions.
These are very reasonable expectations and they need to be included in the proposal for us to support it.