Derby City Council

Mad Hatter’s cafe lease: Council shows double-standards with in-House provider

In a few days time, the Mad Hatter’s Cafe on Alvaston Park will close. It will be replaced by a Council run operation using the Derby Live team that run the Orangery on Markeaton Park. The reason given, by Cllr Rawson, for not extending the £5500pa lease further, to the ladies who have worked tirelessly for the last 6 years, (ARTICLE HERE) is due to the pressures of Government cuts.  The Council viewed that foregoing £5500pa guaranteed income would be significantly offset by the profits that the Derby Live team could generate from the cafe.

It might therefore be expected that, when other similar catering contracts come up for renewal that a similar policy be adopted. It would appear not.

The Council House catering in the “Relish cafe” is delivered by an external organisation called Elior. This was due for renewal in December 2016. This was the opportunity for the Council to realise further vital cost savings.

The Council team waived the need to do a full re-tender of this service, and automatically re-awarded it back to Elior for 6 months.

Extract from Audit and Accounts committee papers 22/3/17

This is the organisation that has an “Exempt” Food Hygiene Rating despite serving fully prepared food. (Exempt is only applicable if pre-packaged food is re-sold).

The only Food Hygiene entry for the Council incorrectly titled

The reason given for waiving this strict procedural requirement to re-tender was to ensure continuity due to the changes to be made to the ground floor. This refers to the re-siting of the Central Library into the main Council House at a cost of £2.5m, for which there is currently no declared or agreed plan. In fact no conclusions have been drawn yet on the whole Library consultation process.

The contract was extended for 6 months, only, for £28,200 – so the assumption must have been, that by 11 June 2017, all changes will have been made to the Ground Floor. It’s unlikely that it will be finished by then.

The Council seem to be comfortable in casually committing a further £28.200 to a 3rd Party organisation on a service which they are separately stating MUST be brought in house in order to save money. The deferral due to floor changes is a very weak excuse, a capable service provider could easily have managed round this short-term problem

The conclusion – is it just double-standards?… poor decision making? incompetent planning? uncertain vision? dithering? None of which are acceptable from an organisation that is responsible for managing a £220m budget. The belief that the action with Mad Hatter’s lease was simply political is re-inforced by this inaction.


1 reply »

  1. Hasn’t this Labour administration learned anything? That if they take a successful business “in-house”, they have a history of ruining what they touch. What happened to the Bike shop when they took that over? Within months, it folded. How can they run a successful business, when it is evident, they can’t run a council?

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