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Campaigners slam ‘disgraceful’ treatment of staff at Chesterfield Queen’s Park Sports Centre cafe

todayFebruary 23, 2023 3

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Campaigners slammed the ‘disgraceful’ treatment of staff at a council-run cafe earmarked for closure after what they claimed were years of mismanagement.

Loyal customer Shelley Dale spoke on behalf of the five employees of Queen’s Park Sports Centre cafe currently facing redundancy as she presented a petition to save it signed by more than 3,000 people to Chesterfield Borough Council (CBC) last night (February 22).

Addressing full council, the campaigner claimed the management of the community facility had been lacking, commenting: “The workers aren’t clear who really manages things.

“The workers say noone has managed the health and hygiene recommendations, noone makes any decisions on products, noone gives them any support to make the cafe a successful operation.

“It is not right that such mismanagement should be allowed to cause a valued public service to close.”

The staff were shocked to be told at the start of the year that the cafe had been recommended for closure due to its lack of profitability.

CBC Cabinet was due to discuss the facility’s future in a meeting on January 24, but fast-acting campaigners handed in a petition with more than 2,000 signatures the day before, meaning the decision had to be delayed until it could be debated by full council.

Ms Dale continued: “Since the closure threat the cafe workers are broken, there has been no support for them.”

She questioned why more had not been done to support the cafe such as hosting children’s parties and catering events.

Ms Dale said the facility was an important lifeline for many groups of people, including the elderly, vulnerable and new parents.

Cabinet member for town centres and visitor economy Councillor Kate Sarvent said: “Officers fully recognise the significant value of the cafe space as a social meeting space for customers.”

However she explained the cafe was running at a deficit of £95k for 2022/23 against a backdrop of ‘significant budget pressures’ currently faced by the council, which meant it had an overspend of £703k.

Coun Sarvent said efforts had been made to make the business profitable, including improved menu provision and loyalty schemes, however despite this the cafe had continued to lose money, despite an increase in footfall at the leisure centre.

“The provision of the cafe is a discretionary service, which means the council have a choice of whether to provide the service or not,” she continued.

“It is important that any service provides value for money for the Chesterfield community, but it is especially important for a discretionary service in the current economic climate and the changes to the budget the council is facing.”

Ms Dale questioned how the cafe could run at a 95k deficit, stating: “Somebody has been paid a lot of money for not managing very much.”

Councillor Ed Fordham commented that the officers coming up with the cafe strategy ‘were not there’, adding: “I think there’s a question about how often they’ve actually been in the cafe itself.”

He said the council had treated the staff ‘pretty disgracefully’ and the patrons ‘with some contempt’. 

Members voted to note the petition and CBC Cabinet will consider the issues raised during the debate when making the final decision about the cafe.

Written by: NDR NEWS

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