Two council cafes given stay of execution in Hartlepool

REPRIEVE: Wingfield Castle
REPRIEVE: Wingfield Castle

TWO council cafes earmarked for closure have been given a stay of execution after concerns from councillors.

Hartlepool Borough Council said four of its catering services were not financially viable any more and should be closed to save money.

The coffee shop inside Hartlepool Art Gallery in Christ Church is to close along with an in-house takeaway service that was provided to council staff.

But members of the council’s Finance and Policy Committee decided that the Wingfield Castle Coffee Shop at Hartlepool Maritime Experience will continue to operate as normal.

But its long-term future is still in doubt as it will be included as part of a wider council feasibility study of the attraction to try and generate more income.

Councillors decided the authority can no longer afford to run the cafe at Hartlepool Central Library and it will explore the possibility of another provider running the shop through a Community Interest Company (CIC).

The proposed closures came under fire from the council’s Trades Union representative Edwin Jeffries as they could lead to up to 14 members of staff being made redundant.

Mr Jeffries said: “The trade unions are fully aware of the financial position facing the council and are fully prepared to enter into consultation of service review, but regrettably we have had no consultation so far on this. The three cafes identified are a service to the public that they welcome when visiting these council facilities.”

He said the Wingfield Castle coffee shop should remain as it is, that some facility should be kept at the art gallery and said a decision on the library should be deferred.

The council says that despite ploughing £23,000 into running the three coffee shops they all fail to make a profit and face increasing competition from private companies.

Chief executive Dave Stubbs said: “The amount of the cost to this authority of these three outlets is substantial. If we don’t take this sort of action now then even more staff would be made redundant to make up those losses.”

Councillor Ray Wells said he was disappointed the review was undertaken so soon after the opening of the new Inspirations Coffee House within Stranton Cemetery.

Coun Wells said staff from the threatened cafes could have been transferred to Inspirations.