Cafe that cost Hartlepool taxpayers more than £300,000 is to close

Inspirations Coffe House

Inspirations Coffe House

A decision has been made to close a council-run cafe that has lost more than £300,000 in three years.

Council bosses at Hartlepool Borough Council say they have “reluctantly” decided to shut Inspirations Coffee House in Stranton Cemetery.

It comes after concerns about how much the venture, which opened in May 2013, was costing taxpayers, and calls to open up its books.

It will now close at the end of this month.

The decision was taken by the council’s Finance and Policy Committee behind closed doors on Monday.

Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, chair of the committee and leader of the council, said in a statement: “We inherited the Inspirations Coffee House initiative from when the council was run by the Elected Mayor and Cabinet, and we have given it every opportunity to be financially viable.

“The staff involved with Inspirations have worked extremely hard to try and make it a success and I don’t think anyone could have done anymore.

“Moving forward, the council continues to face significant cuts in Government funding which will place further pressure on frontline services and reluctantly the committee unanimously agreed that they could no longer continue to subsidise the service.”

A report showed how the coffee house, which cost £280,000 to launch, made a loss of £30,000 in its first year, a £22,000 loss in 2015-15, and £25,000 last year.

While efforts had been made to increase profitability, the best case scenario for this financial year was the cafe would break even or lose £15,000.

When it opened, Inspirations Coffee House was said to be a key part of a new garden centre development on the site of the Stranton Garden Nursery, in Tanfield Road.

A decision by the council to grant an alcohol licence proved controversial among some councillors and residents due to it being in a cemetery.

Inspirations’ business case was focussed on offering a superior product using high quality ingredients.

There has been problems with a high turnover of staff at times and food costs have continued to rise.

The finance committee has requested a further report setting out options for the future of the site.

It also asked to explore redeploying the affected staff of one full-time and three part-time workers.