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THE Melksham Lunch Club at the Assembly Hall lost nearly a quarter of a million pounds over three years, the Melksham News can exclusively reveal.
The much-loved and long-standing service, which was closed last month by Wiltshire Council, lost a total of £245,099 between 2015 and 2018.
The announcement of the service’s closure last year caused shock and upset amongst the community and its loyal customers. However, questions were raised about the reason for the closure, with Wiltshire Council stating that the service was not financially viable and was running at a loss of £82,000 a year. They also stated that each lunch provided was subsidised at a cost of £14.25 to the tax payer.
Melksham News approached Wiltshire Council for a breakdown of the service’s costs and asked how long the service had been running at a loss. The council provided the following information:
“For the 2017/18 financial year the service spent: £74,000 on staff (inc pension contributions etc); £25,000 on rental of premises; £18,000 on catering products, equipment and consumables. The income for the year totalled £35,000, resulting in the £82,000 loss.
“Loss figures for the past two previous financial years were as follows: 2015/16 – £82,734; 2016/17 – £80,365.”
The figures suggest that in 2017/18 the lunch club served approximately 5,754 meals, averaging at 110 meals a week.
Melksham News has subsequently asked Wiltshire Council for more information about the financial losses of the service, requesting the profit/loss figures for the service prior to 2015. Melksham News also asked which committee at Wiltshire Council was responsible for approving the budget for the service; how often the service’s budget was reviewed; and why something wasn’t done sooner. But Wiltshire Council had not responded by the time the paper went to print.
The club served its last meal on Thursday 20th December. However there were fresh hopes for the future of the service last month when local woman, Sue Mortimer, announced plans to save the club, relaunching it with the help of volunteers and former staff members.