How does Welwyn Garden City cafe lose so much public cash?

Crispin Driver has queried how Humphrey's Cafe in Campus West loses so much money.

Crispin Driver has queried how Humphrey's Cafe in Campus West loses so much money. - Credit: Archant

A determined campaigner is pressing council chiefs to explain how their apparently popular cafe manages to lose thousands of pounds every year.

Computer programmer Crispin Driver of Hatfield used the Freedom of Information Act to ask Welwyn Hatfield Council why, according to its accounts, Humphrey’s Cafe in Campus West lost £208,000 in 2016/17, and is forecast to leak a further £190,000 in 2017/18.

But the council told him it could not provide a breakdown of income and expenditure.

It also said it had not carried out a “benchmark” comparison with a similar cafe elsewhere because “Humphrey’s Café is unique”.

Crispin, 52, told the Welwyn Hatfield Times: “If you were running a business and asked the bank to prop you up to the tune of over £3,650 per week with no balance sheet, profit and loss account, or business plan to bring it into the black, they’d laugh you out of town.

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“So why is the council doing exactly that with our money?

“There are profitable cafés running in leisure centres, high streets, parks and lay-bys the length and breadth of the country. Running a profitable café is not exactly rocket science.”

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A council spokeswoman responded: “Costs were allocated to Humphrey’s for multi-skilled staff working in many other parts of the business and a breakdown of figures for the café only would not accurately represent its performance. We are, however, reviewing how the budget is presented in the future to help make it clearer.

“Improving income at Campus West and managing costs more effectively remains a top priority. An independent consultant is in the final stages of a full review which will make recommendations on how we can raise revenue and reduce costs, without impacting on the quality of the facilities we know so many people enjoy.

“The findings of this review will be considered by the cross-party Campus West Cabinet Panel, before taking recommendations to cabinet.”

Crispin, who is a Lib Dem volunteer helper, says his challenge to the Tory-controlled council is not motivated by his political views.

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