The confusion and delay at the heart of Labour-run Greenwich Council’s approach to the still closed café in the Eltham Centre has been revealed through repeated questions from Councillor Spencer Drury.
The plan to close the Eltham Centre café and expand the gym space was revealed by SE9 magazine on their Facebook page in May 2021 with Spencer launching a petition objecting to the closure in June. In September a response to Spencer’s 962 signature petition was provided by the Council and there was confirmation that it was “now intending to go to the market for proposals to operate a café at the Eltham Centre”. At the September meeting the Leader of the Council stated that he looked forward to the café re-opening as soon as possible.
Having secured a reversal of the Council’s policy, Spencer asked in October for confirmation of the timetable to reopen the café and was told by the Labour Cabinet Member that: “The Council will shortly be appointing an agent to market a lease of the café space and find an operator. It is expected that this process will conclude towards the end of this calendar year with the café becoming operational in February/March”
So the timetable seemed clear but as the café remained closed at the end of March, Spencer asked again, but this time was told “The marketing of the café space commenced earlier this year as planned and is due to close at the end of March 2022” Challenged about the constant delays to the process, the Cabinet Member claimed that it was “completely within timeframe” and she was “comfortable with the process”.
Spencer commented “It’s been almost a year since the Council declared it would reopen the café and both Charlie and I have had enquiries from businesses who are keen to take on the lease, but still the café remains closed. I don’t believe the Council can be this incompetent, however, I am prepared to believe that there has been a political decision to delay the reopening in the hope Labour Councillors replace Conservative ones in Eltham at the May elections so the café closure can be confirmed without any fuss or objections. Last September the Leader of the Council stated in public that there was a significant demand to expand gym services and I wonder if this has been the focus all along despite public commitments to the café.”
According to a story on the Murky Depths blog, the annual rent for the cafe will be £30,000pa which seems substantially higher than comparable units – a shop in the Eltham Arcade opposite is being advertised currently for £7,800pa.