A POPULAR town hall restaurant is closing – just three and a half years after thousands was spent refurbishing it.
Local authority chiefs today denied the surprise move - The Bistro only opened in 2009 with access for the public – was because of the continuing Government spending cuts. Instead it wants the space for offices as part of a plan to centralise council staff at the historic former mining college building.
Five jobs are now under threat.
The closure is being opposed by independent councillor Bob Brierley who is angry about the cash that was spent on the refurbishment.
He has now made an angry plea to chief executive Donna Hall demanding a U-turn in the proposal. Coun Brierley said that he has been so impressed by the quality of food and the service offered he always gives them a Christmas box bottle of Bailey’s each year.
He said: “I have pointed out to her that this facility had a large investment of thousands spent on it some years ago.
“I believe this is a mistake and after attending a community meeting there last week where I was informed that this council is obliged to supply food and drinks to all council committee members when having their meetings in the Town Hall.
“The staff in the Bistro work very hard to accommodate residents visiting the town hall on council business, shoppers and council staff themselves and provides good food, which I reward then every Christmas with a large bottle of Baileys.”
Head of assets and contracts Martin Wright confirmed that the council was currently implementing its Accommodation Strategy which involved remodelling the Town Hall so that around twice as many staff can be based in the building. He said the move will save it £1m a year which will be channelled towards “important” front line services.
He said: “It is correct that, as part of this process, the Bistro, which is currently subsidised, will be closed and the space will be used more efficiently.
“Staff working in the Town Hall can easily access the variety of food outlets in the town centre, as many do already.
“We are working with staff directly affected by the closure to identify other opportunities within our provision.”
Mr Wright confirmed that the former staff restaurant facility had been refurbished over Christmas 2008 before re-opening in January 2009.