Plans to run pony and trap rides in Harrogate town centre and welcome more movie stars to the town have been put forwardf as part of the council’s bid to become self sufficient.
The council is looking to sell off assets and hire out services to private business in the hope of increasing the authority’s income so it can end it’s reliance on government funding in five years.
In the last five years, Harrogate Borough Council (HBC), like most authorities across the UK, has seen its central government funding drop by 50 per cent.
Cabinet Member for Tourism, Economic Development and Enterprise, Coun Graham Swift (Con, Saltergate) said: “The government cuts left us with a few choices, cutting costs which we have done effectively over the last few years, or to put up council tax which we haven’t done and don’t want to do.
“We believe the council has core skills, things that we do very well that we can generate revenue from.”
HBC would need to generate an additional £5million income by 2020 to become self sufficient and close the funding gap.
Coun Swift said that hiring out services will be one of the ways of doing that.
“A basic example would be the skills of our parks and gardens teams. You just have to walk through Valley Gardens to see that we know what we are doing and we are doing it very well. We can provide those skills to private companies, like hotels and stately homes who would pay for them.”
Other ideas included in the report include selling sponsorship of flowerbeds from 2015/16, selling branding on gateway ‘Welcome to Harrogate’ signs, advertising on bin lorries and even selling the naming rights to buildings.
The council also plans to offer licences to operate a road train through the Valley Gardens, or offer pony and trap rides in the town centre, charge musicians to perform in public spaces and licence the council’s brand to sell products.
Other local authorities across the UK have made similar moves, with Westminster City Council selling advertising space on its buildings to premium brands and Nottingham City Council setting up a utilities company.
Last year Hollywood came to Harrogate when the Montpellier Quarter was transformed into a Swiss street while scenes for $25million blockbuster Hunters Prayer were filmed, and Coun Swift believes using the town as a film set could generate more revenue for the council.
The proposals also include the annual selling off of assets.
However when asked if the council would be looking to sell off buildings such as Conygham Hall, Knaresborough House or pieces from the council’s £8million art collection, Coun Swift said there were no plans to sell assets yet, but the council needed to make sure they are ‘sweating them’.
He added there wouldn’t be consultations every time this plan progresses. He said: “Residents have elected us to get do a job , we need to get on and do that.”
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