THE cafés at Kirkby’s two main parks have made total losses of £200,000 in three years - sparking questions from shocked councillors.
The figures came to light at an Ashfield District Council audit and standards committee on Monday (24th September) night.
An internal audit progress report revealed that draft trading accounts show that the cafés at Portland and Kingsway Parks have operated at an annual deficit collectively totalling £200,000 over the past three years.
The annual deficits average at £41,000 for Portland Park’s café and £25,000 for Kingsway.
Coun Tom Hollis questioned why the losses were so large and why the council had not stepped in before now.
Dave Greenwood, the council’s deputy chief executive, said that the cafés have traditionally been provided as ‘more of a service to the public than as a profit-making entity’.
When asked why the audit progress report states that the council’s Environment Directorate is ‘unable to identify a strategy/ business plan for the park cafés’, Mr Greenwood said there were a number of areas where income had been static for years, such as car parking, but managers are starting to review them and will report back to the committee in December.
“Clearly there are things they need to address,” he said.
A consultant is being brought in to look into ways of reducing the deficit, but Mr Greenwood said there were no immediate plans to close either of the cafés.
Coun Ray Buttery said that he had heard that the council was looking at working with a partner to improve performance at Portland Park.
“£200,000 over three years is a lot of money,” he added.
The report also states that while Selston Golf Course achieved an overall profit of £28,000 in 2011/12, café-related activity incurred a loss of £9,000.
Coun David Kirkham said that the council ought to be doing all it can to reduce losses.
“Primarily these cafés are on the parks as a service to the public,” he said.
“When the public are on the golf course or in the park, they like to be able to pop in and buy a cup of tea.
“That doesn’t detract from us having another look and look at making it more efficient.”
Questions were also asked about the cost of bringing in a consultant.
Coun Keir Morrison said that he did not think this was something the council should be outsourcing with the expertise at the council.
Coun Hollis added that a ‘compromise’ needs to be found so that the cafés are not operating at such a loss.