Harrogate leisure and housing companies ‘will transfer’ to new North Yorkshire Council but questions remain

Harrogate Borough Council has confirmed its leisure and housing companies will be transferred to the new North Yorkshire Council - but questions remain over what will happen thereafter.

By Jacob Webster
Thursday, 2nd June 2022, 1:38 pm
Updated Thursday, 2nd June 2022, 1:41 pm
Brimhams Active and Bracewell Homes are at arm's-length companies owned by Harrogate Borough Council.
Brimhams Active and Bracewell Homes are at arm's-length companies owned by Harrogate Borough Council.

Brimhams Active and Bracewell Homes were launched in the last three years with the backing of just under £11 million from taxpayers.

The borough council said in a statement this week that "there are no plans to change how they’re currently run, albeit they will transfer" when the authority is abolished next April.

This comes as council officers from across North Yorkshire are working together on county-wide plans for how all services will work when they come under the control of the new North Yorkshire Council.

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Currently, housing and leisure services across the seven districts are run in different ways through at arm's-length companies, management firms, charity trusts and by the local councils themselves.

Councillor Carl Les, leader of North Yorkshire County Council, said the correct decision-making process would be followed for the future of services and that he would not be drawn on whether it would be better to scrap the current set-ups.

He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: "Leisure and housing are two of our work streams going forward for the next 10 months and it would be wrong to try and prejudge what recommendations are going to be made for the new council to adopt.

"These are two important issues and we recognise that Harrogate has companies doing these pieces of work.

"But this has to be fed into our ongoing work which will then give recommendations to the executive and wider council."

Brimhams Active launched last August when it took over control of leisure centres and swimming pools in Harrogate, Starbeck, Ripon, Knaresborough and Pateley Bridge.

Harrogate Borough Council hailed the move as a “new vision for the future” of services and said it would save around £400,000 a year through business rates relief and VAT benefits.

Councillor Pat Marsh, leader of the council's opposition Liberal Democrat group and Brimhams Active board member, said the company has so far been a success despite challenges with Covid closures and staffing shortages.

She said: "Several local authorities have stopped even providing leisure services, it is not a compulsory service.

"Setting up Brimhams Active has meant the council continues to offer and develop the service for the benefit of our residents."

However, councillor Marsh was less praiseworthy of Bracewell Homes which launched in 2019 with the aims of turning the council a profit and delivering much-needed affordable homes.

She said: "I had hoped that Bracewell Homes would deliver social housing, but that has not happened.

"It was never the kind of housing company that I was arguing for."

Confirming both companies will be transferred to the new council, a Harrogate Borough Council spokesperson said: "We are working collectively with the county council and neighbouring district councils to ensure a smooth transition to the new authority on 1 April.

"Part of this work involves looking at local authority controlled companies such as Brimhams Active and Bracewell Homes.

"Decisions on what they might look like in the future will be made by North Yorkshire Council."

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter