New council role created for former Harrogate Convention Centre director

Former director of Harrogate Convention Centre Simon Kent will take up a new role until his contract expires in September.
Former director of Harrogate Convention Centre Simon Kent will take up a new role until his contract expires in September.
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Former Harrogate Convention Centre director Simon Kent will remain on the district council's payroll until September, but in a new position.

His replacement at the centre, Paula Lorimer, started her tenure as director earlier this month, with their contracts - which are both worth £99,711 per annum - overlapping by about seven months.

New centre director Paula Lorimer.

New centre director Paula Lorimer.

However, after aiding in the transition to Ms Lorimer's management, Mr Kent will now take on a new position with the council up until September.

According to the council, Mr Kent's role will be centred around supporting a number of major projects, including leading the development of the council’s commercial strategy, supporting the delivery of the Harrogate BID and developing a new five year district destination management strategy.

Councillor Richard Cooper, leader of Harrogate Borough Council and chair of Harrogate Convention Centre, said the arrangement provided a good opportunity for a seamless handover of the centre.

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"Simon Kent will be staying until September to support a smooth transition within the HCC business while also being engaged on a number of major projects and events across HBC until September," Coun Cooper (Cons) said.

"These include, leading on the development of the council’s commercial strategy, supporting the delivery of the Harrogate BID, developing a new five year district destination management strategy, as well as the upcoming UCI Road World Championships which we all know will bring national and global attention.”

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Coun Cooper added that former Manchester Central deputy CEO Ms Lorimer would be a "phenomenal asset" to the venue.

“We’re delighted that Paula Lorimer has joined Harrogate Convention Centre as the new director," Coun Cooper said.

"With a prolific and successful career, Paula has turned around the fortunes of some of the biggest players in the event industry and will be a phenomenal asset to the organisation."

The convention centre is one of the region’s biggest draws and brings an estimated £60m to the local economy yearly.

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However, it has battled challenging conditions in the event industry over the last several years.

Harrogate councillors in November expressed concerns about a forecast £463k underperformance last year, stemming from a significant shortfall in lettings income.

Harrogate Borough Council, which owns the Convention Centre, commissioned a business study into redevelopment plans for the site last year, while the 2018 annual report outlined plans to ramp up efforts to regain lost business and encourage more repeat business.

Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporting Service