Time for action say business leaders: 'It’s time Harrogate College belonged to Harrogate again'

Harrogate College.
Harrogate College.

The president of Harrogate’s leading body representing businesses has called for control over Harrogate College to be put back in the town’s own hands.

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In a hard-hitting statement, Steve Scarre, president of Harrogate district Chamber of Commerce, said the town’s business community needed a new and better future for the college and its students.

He said: “It’s time Harrogate College belonged to Harrogate again and was run by and for the interests of Harrogate people.

“Harrogate is ripe for curriculum development. For example, let’s establish an apprenticeship model that is the envy of the rest of the UK.

“Principals used to be educationalists first and foremost, not accountants.”

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His views follow a troubled 12 months for the college, currently run by Hull College Group, which has seen strikes, possible job losses and the possibility of control of this important further education hub being handed over to yet another public body as part of the third major restructuring in just over a decade.

The chamber president says the time has come where Harrogate College was run by local people and its assets managed for the benefit of the town, not Hull.

He said: “Harrogate College should be bought and run by a local organisation.

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“The college-owned land on the corner of the colletge site on Hornbeam, which used to be the old college sports field, should be kept it in the Harrogate portfolio for future expansion,

“Any sale proceeds should belong to Harrogate and not be lost in Hull’s bank account.

“Let’s go for it, using Harrogate as a model, run by education specialists, but backed up by a local dedicated board of governors, who can provide the expertise needed to run a large business.

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His views are backed by another leading business figure in Harrogate.

Simon Cotton, managing director of the HRH Group which includes The Fat Badger, White Hart Hotel & Apartments, Yorkshire Hotel and Scran Restaurant, said “I totally agree with

Steve’s comments in principal as this would be the best outcome for Harrogate and it’s future students and in turn the local economy.

“I think the idea of having people with a local interest, local passion and ultimately a vested interest in the long term local economic outlook, would no doubt reap huge benefits.

“The continued changes ahead in recruiting the right workforce for many of our town’s businesses after Brexit, will, I fear, only get tougher, so the College plan would make total sense to try to achieve it.”

But Mr Cotton also said current circumstances made this “dream” a major challeneg to achieve.

He said: “The question has to first be, do we have such people or organisations locally who are willing to invest the necessary monies and time and see through what will ultimately be a long term project.

“The kind of people who we would need to be the Board of Governors on something like this, and the investors, do not want to tie themselves up long term as they tend to be about impact and quick wins.”

The Harrogate Advertiser contacted Hull College Group but a spokesperson said it was not appropriate to comment at this point.