Dropped in at Harrold Country Park today, as I occasionally do. It’s a great park, lovely surroundings and the café serves up a tasty lunch. Well it used to serve up a tasty lunch. The café is closed today. It’s been closed for several weeks.
The sign posted outside said it is closed for refurbishment. Fair enough. But the sign next to the refurbishment notice told another story, and it wasn’t just a story of refurbishment.
Talking to passing locals soon revealed a great deal of resentment. Resentment directed at Bedford Borough Council.
It seems the local caters who ran the café have been given the heave-ho. And there was little consultation with anyone.
A local business, they were well liked and appreciated by regular users of the park. They provided first class service and tasty food, which I can vouch for. But it seems that wasn’t enough for Bedford Borough Council.
Several weeks ago the lease, or whatever the legal term is, was handed to a Catering company from Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk, Churchill Catering.
I guess Churchill came up with a more competitive tender, which is double-speak for a cheaper offer. And Bedford Borough Council, being sub-contractors for the Tory Austerity Implementation Programme accepted their tender. (Tory Austerity Implementation Programme is double-speak for making cuts to your services on behalf of the Government, which they will say they are legally obliged to do)
It seems Churchill Catering is delighted to announce their tender success to run the café at Harrold. Right now they are probably the only people who are delighted. They are a family business, who specialise in the development and management of country park cafes, from Surrey to Scotland. There are a lot of country parks between Surrey and Scotland.
It goes on to say the refit will include furniture and soft seating. The new menu will include healthy and traditional choices. We will also be served high quality coffee courtesy of Lavazza. Nice coffee, but I think the coffee served by the previous owners was its equal, if not better.
It warns us to expect the new menu might take a little time to settle down. But they will take note of customer comments, so we should pop in to talk to them.
Much as I’d like to talk to them, it’s probably not a good idea as the only thing I have to say is, “Fuck off and take your business model with you”.
You might think that I’m over reacting, but I read on their website that, “We reduce our costs by 3% EVERY YEAR – so only reducing subsidies”. Is this the double-speak hook that caught Bedford Borough?
We need to think about that and what it means. I wonder who will bear the cost of those reductions? Staff, suppliers, customers. Somebody has to pay for those reductions. Cost reductions don’t grow on trees, even if you are sited in a country park.
Oh, and they offer fabulous high street brands, oblivious to the fact that I don’t like high street brands, that’s why I go to a country park. If I wanted high street brands I’d go to the bloody high street.
So to sum up, I didn’t get any lunch today because Bedford Borough Council threw out a local Bedford business, in favour of a business from Suffolk. Just think about that for a moment whilst I go and make myself a sandwich.
Bedford Borough, instead of supporting a local business, chose to give business to a company in Suffolk. They just transferred money and profit to Suffolk.
Why not support people you are supposed to work for, people in Bedford Borough. Build the local economy, the Bedford economy. The rural Bedford economy.
I recently read in the local press that the lease for the café on Longhome Lake in Bedford was lost by its longstanding operator. I wonder why?
Over the Easter weekend, on a walk along the river, I noticed that café was also undergoing some work and was not open. Is there a pattern emerging?
Competitive Tendering, double-speak. Cutting costs, cutting corners, all for the bigger companies. Who bears the cost? Staff in wages and hours worked; small suppliers forced to accept low prices; local businesses forced out by bigger companies; customers given less choice in the long run; high street brands and mono-culture; ordinary people, their voice ignored.
The tentacles of austerity reach into the quiet corners of the country. Big overwhelms small. Money and wealth drawn ever upwards, from local to national, eventually to international and the privileged few. The local voice silenced. Authority supreme.
Beds On Sunday story “A council spokeswoman said: “The tender process was carried out under established guidelines to ensure the best outcome for park users, the café, and tax payers”. Bedford Borough double-speak me thinks, “the best outcome for park users, the café and taxpayers”. Bedford Borough may believe it.