Sunderland City Council spends £10,500 on 'impressive' cafe revamp at Civic Centre - despite preparing to move into £42million new building

City bosses spent more than £10,000 on a new cafe at their HQ – despite plans to move out within two years.

Friday, 3rd January 2020, 4:45 pm
Council chiefs say sales are up after the cafe got a stylish new look - but concerns have been raised over whether it was £10,500 well spent, given that the authority is moving into a new building next year.

Work on Sunderland City Council’s new Vaux site base started at the end of 2019, due for completion in 2021.

The £42million project, dubbed ‘City Hall’, will replace the local authority’s current home, the 1970s-built Civic Centre, in Burdon Road.

But despite the relocation proposals, £10,500 has been spent on refurbishing the current Civic Centre’s eatery, provoking ‘surprise’ from opposition leaders from opposition leaders that such a decision would be taken so close to the expected moving date.

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Council chiefs say sales are up after the cafe got a stylish new look - but concerns have been raised over whether it was £10,500 well spent, given that the authority is moving into a new building next year.

“I think the work needed to be done many years ago,” said Coun Robert Oliver, leader of the city council’s Conservative opposition group.

“It’s typical that the council doesn’t do more to bring revenue in, but I think to do it now, just a couple of years before it’s going to be pulled down, is a bit late.

“I think people will be concerned with the amount being spent on that, but if it can bring in more money, perhaps it could recover the money and that would be acceptable.”

Work has seen the cafe redecorated, with artworks added by Wearside artist Kathryn Robertson, as well as new equipment and furniture and an overhauled menu.

Council chiefs say sales are up after the cafe got a stylish new look - but concerns have been raised over whether it was £10,500 well spent, given that the authority is moving into a new building next year.

Coun Oliver called the artwork ‘very impressive’ and added he hoped it would be possible to transfer it to the new ‘City Hall’ when it opens.

Council leader Graeme Miller has previously claimed plans to move to the Vaux site would save the city almost £5million compared to the costs of carrying out necessary repairs and renovations at the Civic Centre.

A council spokesman said: “As a council it is necessary for us to invest in the maintenance and upkeep of our buildings to ensure they are clean, safe and fit for use by council employees and visitors.

“It had become apparent that the café was no longer seen as a valued asset to employees or the public, and use had declined.

Council chiefs say sales are up after the cafe got a stylish new look - but concerns have been raised over whether it was £10,500 well spent, given that the authority is moving into a new building next year.

“Sales are now up, more people are enjoying the facility and the new healthy food on offer. Many fixtures and fittings, including the well-received glass panelled artwork, can be transferred.”