'Why are Welwyn Hatfield's popular council attractions losing money?'
PUBLISHED: 09:55 16 February 2017 | UPDATED: 10:00 16 February 2017
High profile borough council services that could be money-spinners are leaking cash, a leading opposition councillor has warned.
Lib Dem Malcolm Cowan has highlighted how the 2017/18 budget agreed last week shows that Humphrey’s coffee shop in Campus West is losing about £200,000 a year, and the Stanborough Park High Ropes attraction is also forecast to lose money next year.
He said: “The cafe losing money is unbelievable. This is open up to 12 hours a day and should be a licence to print money, not to lose it. Copious amounts of wine are purchased by customers for some of the film nights.”
The cafe made a loss of about £208,000 in 2016/17, forecast in the budget to drop to about £190,000 in 2017/18.
And Councillor Cowan has questioned why projected 2017/18 income from the High Ropes attraction, installed at a capital cost of £465,000 with the intention of eventually funding a wet play area, was just £15,000, insufficient to cover costs.
He said: “This was to be the feature that would pay for Splashlands, which is years late and still on the drawing board.”
A council spokeswoman responded; “CW Entertainment is a very popular leisure venue, highly valued by local people. As a business, it has always required a subsidy payment from the council, and work is ongoing to improve income and manage costs more effectively in a very competitive local market place.
“The café subsidy is reducing year on year and there are some services, such as food and beverage, which are in their early stages and have some further growth potential. The same goes for Garden City Cinema and Soft Play City.
“The ropes course opened under a new operator at the end of June 2016 and has welcomed over 2,500 customers.
“While the annual fixed fee has been received by the council, there has been no surplus created in the short period it has been open after set-up and operating costs are taken into account.
“The course reopened after its winter break for the school half term on Saturday, February 11, and it is expected to remain open right through to the end of November in what will be its first full trading year.
“Separate to this, work is ongoing to identify a financially sustainable mix of new leisure activities to complement the ropes course in Stanborough Park.”