As the Harrogate Convention Centre is looking for further public money to redevelop its facilities, we have taken a look at the number of events held each year.
We have found that the Harrogate Convention Centre is difficult to work with on news items, so we resorted to using the Freedom of Information (FOI) system. This was not ideal, and not the preferred way of working with an organisation.
Information was returned by Harrogate Borough Council on the new events per year, total events held and the name of the new events.
They have refused to give the total events lost each event year or the names of those events. They say that information is commercially sensitive, so exempt. We have requested an internal review of that decision, as we feel that there is significant public interest, particularly as they are looking for council money to develop and refurbish the facility.
The figures show a fairly static position over the years around the number of events. This analysis looks at an event happening or not, not the overall footfall that varies with each type of event.
This is what we have been provided:
|Harrogate Convention Centre – events by year|
|Financial Year||Number of New Events||Total Events Held||Name of new events|
|2015/16||30||69||Cake and Bake|
Harrogate Visual Arts Expo
Christmas Foodies Festival
|2017/18||25||62||Stitching, Sewing & Hobbycrafts Show|
North Yorkshire Vegan Festival
The Great Brick Adventure
Harrogate Oktober Fest
Wildlife and Safari Travel Show
Your Overseas Property Show
Sea Creatures: Life Beneath The Ocean
Gin To My Tonic
|2019/20||25||66||Preloved Vintage Wholesale|
Health and Healing Festival
Excludes: Royal Hall, Entertainments, Local Groups, Theatre, HIF and Internal
includes: Corporate, Conference, Exhibition
Events classed as ‘new’ are those that have not been before or have not been for a significant period of time (over 5 years) – these are likely to be corporate events or conferences who meet across the country on a rotational basis.
In the FOI request we “What business has been lost by the Harrogate Convention over each financial year”
This is more difficult to identify as Harrogate Borough Council has declined to provide that information.
In a statement responding to the Freedom of Information Request, Harrogate Borough Council said:
The Harrogate Convention Centre declined to provide information on events that they had lost. They confirmed that they did hold the information but said that they believed that this information is exempt from disclosure under section 43(2) of the FOI Act as it would likely prejudice the commercial interests of the Council.
Whilst there is public interest in openness and transparency when the Council is utilising public money, there is also a public interest in allowing the Council to withhold information which it deems commercially sensitive, in this case the information is used for commercial purposes and if disclosed could prejudice commercial negotiations with 3rd parties.
Disclosing a list of corporate events will essentially release HCC’s client list into the public domain enabling its competitors to identify and target their clients. Furthermore, it is not uncommon for clients to consider this information confidential. On this basis, the Council is of the view that the public interest in ensuring the Council is not put in a commercial disadvantage outweighs the public interest in disclosure and therefore we consider the section 43(2) exemption to be engaged.
We have asked for an internal review, as this is an important point of accountability of the Harrogate Convention Centre.