Potential job losses at HIC

MORE job losses could be announced at the Harrogate International Centre as extra services are set to be outsourced to make costs savings of £500,000.

Under the proposals announced to staff this week, technical services, security, front of house and cleaning will be outsourced. Catering, stewarding and car parking are already outsourced.

Unison has condemned the move. Branch secretary Dave Houlgate said: “Staff are on the floor about these proposals. They are expected to rejuvenate the business but feel completely undervalued and betrayed.”

HIC made 39 redundancies in July, around half its workforce, amid growing competition in the conference and exhibition business.

The centre is expected to lose just over £1million this year, and has already begun a review to transfer management of the loss making Royal Hall to Harrogate Theatre to save money.

HIC director Angus Houston said: “This is about the resurgence of the HIC - we are not simply saying we have to cut more, but we are competing in the most competitive market place we have ever been in.

“Venues are springing up almost overnight. This is about the sustainability, resilience and competitiveness of HIC.”

The centre is run by Harrogate Borough Council and council leader Coun Don Mackenzie chairs the HIC board. He said: “Essentially we have a local authority based workforce trying to compete in a private sector market place and we have to adapt. Unless other things are done, we face a similar loss next year.

“The market is one day going to turn around, our sales staff are working hard, and we have to give attention to our cost base.”

He added: “We expect to freeze council tax next year and to do that, and protect services, we have to get better control of HIC finances.”

Coun Mackenzie also revealed that the management team was looking at a whole range of additional uses for the HIC, including a retail strategy to have high street brand names in the building including restaurants.

There are also options to lease office accommodation within HIC, and to turn part of the Springfield House offices into apartments, alongside the council’s review of all its offices.