£45k flower bill after closure
UP TO £45,000 a year will be spent on buying in plants and flowers after a council shut its own nursery in budget cuts.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council's state-of-the-art Greenhouse 2000 facility closed in October and is currently for sale with a price tag of up to £1 million.
The authority now expects to spend £45,000 a year buying bedding plants from other companies and has spent £20,913 making two nursery workers redundant.
Officers say they have not yet estimated how much will be spent securing the building while it remains empty.
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The Festival Park nursery grew and sold thousands of flowers each year to businesses and neighbouring councils, as well as supplying plants for the council's own floral displays.
Cabinet members were told the centre was set to make a profit of £61,000 before they voted for its closure last year, but the authority says the profit was based on budget cuts and the centre had been running at a substantial loss.
Figures show Greenhouse 2000 lost £513,421 between 2007/08 and 2011/12, an average of £102,600 a year.
Losses were reduced from £145,735 in 2010/11 to £24,179 in 2011/12 as the council significantly scaled back its spending on plants and flowers.
The council says it would have had to spend £781,000 upgrading facilities over the coming years in order to keep the centre running.
Ian Tamburello, interim strategic manager of environment, said: "The Greenhouse has made losses in previous years. The marginal profit of £60,000 was for this financial year and was based on efficiency measures. With the pressures facing local authorities, this income stream could not be guaranteed."
Sylvia Arnold, aged 55, of Meir, said: "It's a shame they aren't spending money on flowers because it helps people feel a bit of pride in the area.
"I dread to think what people think when they're driving in, but if it's costing that much money there isn't a choice."
All contracts with businesses and other councils were honoured, meaning no refunds had to be handed out because of the closure. Greenhouse 2000 also provided services for weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and funerals, as well as some corporate contracts for offices and showrooms.
The city council is scaling back its funding for floral displays. The budget has been more than halved over two years and perennial plants which need less upkeep are replacing bedding plants.