Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council is committed to ensuring the hot food service at a popular visitor attraction on the shores of Lough Neagh returns as soon as possible, it has been confirmed.
In mid-March, a Council spokesperson advised that the cafe at the Lough Neagh Discovery Centre would be operating as a “coffee shop only with no hot food provision (including carvery) for the foreseeable future”.
The spokesperson also apologised and promised to update the public when normal service resumes.
Addressing the issue at Council’s monthly meeting on Monday, March 28, Alderman Stephen Moutray accepted there was a staff illness issue but asked when Council will “step up” and ensure normal service resumes.
“When people take youngsters to play parks it is often a generational thing and one of the most utilised council facilities with a play park in it is the Lough Neagh Discovery Centre,” said Alderman Moutray.
“Can I ask why the restaurant there has closed and is now providing a coffee only service?
“I am aware there is a staff illness and I am not going there, that is very understandable but in the absence of a staff member it appears there is going to be an elongated period of time and we all know how busy our facilities get with the good weather.
“When is this council going to step up and make arrangements for someone else in the meantime to operate the facility that is there?
“It was an excellent dementia friendly service that operated there so can someone come back to me and let me know when this service will return.”
In response to this query, Council’s head of estates and asset management Jonathan Hayes confirmed that due to a staff shortage the council did not have the required number of cooks to provide the service and said Council is currently attempting to recruit to fill this gap in provision.
“We are currently looking to recruit to fill that gap and as soon as we are able to do so we will give a commitment that normal service will resume,” said Mr Hayes.
“In the meantime we do acknowledge there is some inconvenience in the short term but we are certainly very keen to get back to where we were before and I can give a commitment that normal service will resume as soon as we are able to recruit staff.”
When asked by Council’s Lord Mayor, Alderman Glenn Barr how far along the recruitment process is, Mr Hayes told the chamber Council is currently advertising the position.
Alderman Moutray asked what the closing date is for potential applicants to express an interest in the position and queried if staff could be transferred from elsewhere in the meantime.
With regards to the closing date for applications to be submitted, Mr Hayes said he would provide that information to Alderman Moutray after the meeting and explained why staff could not be transferred from other council operated facilities across the borough.
“We have looked across our other facilities, the golf and ski centre, Kinnego and even Navan and while we could transfer staff, we could not do so on a regular basis,” he said.
“To do this would mean we could not be consistent in relation to our offering.”