City council canteen is shut to save cash
COUNCIL workers are being told to bring packed lunches or buy their meals from shops as the staff canteen shuts as part of cutbacks.
The subsidised Civic Centre restaurant has closed and will not reopen when workers return after the Christmas break as bosses look to save more than £70,000 a year.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council launched a review of the service in 2011 after a slump in sales saw annual losses mount but originally planned to out-source it to a private firm.
Now they have decided the canteen, which is on course to raise £30,000 less than expected in 2012/13, is not financially viable without council subsidy and will close.
Cafes at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery and Gladstone Pottery Museum – which have made £5,000 less than predicted this year – will be signed over to a private firm in June to save them from closure. A canteen at the authority's Cromer Road depot closed in April.
Communities and local government secretary Eric Pickles called on councils to shut subsidised canteens as part of his '50 sensible savings' document for local authorities.
The authority is making savings of £21.1 million next year.
Councillor Paul Shotton, deputy leader of the council and cabinet member for finance, procurement and commission, said: "A short-term plan with changes to the operation of the catering service at the Civic Centre was introduced to find out its financial viability for being outsourced.
"It is now considered that it is not viable and it has been decided to close the facility at the end of the calendar year.
"The catering service at the Potteries Museum and Gladstone cafe are in the process of being tendered, with a start date for the new operator being June 1, 2013. The Cromer Road canteen closed in April this year."
Sales at the Civic Centre canteen have fallen by 26 per cent in a year despite a price freeze.
The Civic Centre is up for sale and will close in 2015 but the council's controversial new headquarters in Hanley is unlikely to feature a canteen.
Plans for the Central Business District include cafes and restaurants run by private chains around a central public square.
Workers will also be encouraged to use shops in the rest of the city centre.
Resident Sylvia Arnold, aged 55, of Meir, said: "I'm pleased they are not going to close the Potteries Museum cafe because it would be very strange to have something that big without anywhere to have a bite to eat, especially with the interest in the Hoard.
"With all of the cuts I don't know how they have managed to keep the staff canteen running for so long. We shouldn't be paying for them to have cheap meals."