Harrogate Convention Centre performance remains a "key" concern, councillors told

Harrogate Convention Centre.
Harrogate Convention Centre.

The performance of Harrogate Convention Centre remains a key concern of the borough council, members of the authority's scrutiny committee have been told.

Councillors on the overview and scrutiny body were presented a report on the authority's corporate performance by business intelligence and performance manager Rachel Glynn at their meeting on Monday.

Ms Glynn said "the two key issues" facing the council were the continued financial performance of the convention centre, and the progress of reviews into council's parks and environmental services.

'Major concerns' over Harrogate Convention Centre performance amid budget overspend
The report states that while final accounts are not yet completed, the latest forecast indicates lettings at the centre are "significantly under target".

The underperformance over the last financial year is expected to impact the economic impact the centre brings to the district by an estimated £777,758, with current figures seeing its impact falling to £55,252,239 from £56,029,997 in 2017/18.

Former Mayor Coun Bernard Bateman highlighted a lack of promotion of centre events as a key issue.

“As Mayor you were very rarely told if there was an exhibition coming, the only way you'd find out is if you were reading the Harrogate newspaper," he said.

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However, Coun Pat Marsh it was important that new centre director Paula Lorimer was given "breathing space" to improve the centre's performance, following her appointment in January.

"She's taking that step back to look at the business," Coun Marsh said, agreeing that Ms Lorimer was undertaking a "roots and branch", in-depth look at how to improve the centre.

The report also highlighted the progress of reviews into the authority's Parks and Environmental Service as another area of concern, given that "the financial implications of this review have a significant impact" on the council's Efficiency Plan.

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The wide-reaching reviews are aimed at saving at least £511,000 over the next two financial years.

However, Ms Glynn said it was also important to identify where the council's corporate performance went well.

Among the positives she identified were the establishment of council's commercial housing company, progress made in the adoption of the local plan, and approval of council's Ultra-low Emissions Vehicle Strategy.

She also highlighted the delivery of 259 affordable homes over 2018/19, exceeding the 210 annual target and an improvement on the 161

delivered the previous year.

Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter