Statement on the future of the contract with City Catering Southampton

Our decision to not renew the contract with City Catering Southampton means that alternative catering arrangements are being made to support residents at Erskine Court and Potters Court, as well as those who access prepared meals via the ‘meals on wheels’ service

The decision to not renew the catering contract at Erskine Court and Potters Court was made after careful review and consideration of the use of the restaurants, which have been operating at under capacity for some time.

Erskine Court has 54 homes and Potters Court has 83, but the restaurants only sell around 25 meals per day, meaning the current on-site catering arrangements have generated a loss of over £150,000 in the last year. This shortfall is covered by the Housing Revenue Account; we therefore have to subsidise the restaurants, which doesn’t represent good value for money for residents and reduces the money available to carry out repairs and improvements to council homes. We have considered increasing service charges (in the region of an extra £22 per household per week, in addition to paying for food), which everyone would have to pay regardless of whether they use the restaurants, but this would be an unacceptable solution for the majority of residents. We have also explored other possibilities, including seeking support from community delivery partners, and unfortunately, the numbers do not make for a viable commercial opportunity.

The restaurants will not close when the catering contract ends on 31 October 2023. Residents will be able to use the spaces to enjoy food together, whether that’s via self-service options, food delivery services, or bringing their own food to share with friends. We’re also committed to developing the spaces to best meet residents’ nutritional and social wellbeing needs. There’s potential for regular activities and events and for the community to run their own lunch clubs, afternoon tea parties and fish and chips evenings, and our staff are working closely with residents to plan and deliver taster sessions so they can decide what they prefer. The kitchens will remain, and we intend to open the facilities at different times to accommodate events and voluntary groups.

Erskine Court and Potters Court are housing with care schemes, which are designed to support independent living, while also providing high-quality, 24-hour care appropriate to residents’ needs and wishes. Residents live in their own self-contained flats, and many choose to prepare their meals in their modern, well-equipped kitchens. However, we realise some residents, especially those with disabilities, need extra support and we are helping them to make choices on the alternatives available. The food industry has developed significantly over the last few years, with access to hot food delivery becoming increasingly popular and offering a selection of affordable and healthy options for people to choose from.

We want to make this transition period as straightforward as possible and ensure the communities at both schemes are happy with the new arrangements. We see this as an opportunity to help residents access improved food offerings and, by making the schemes’ facilities more flexible, build vibrant communities with residents at their heart. If residents have any questions, or they want to become involved in developing new ways of using their community facilities, they should speak to their support workers, who are on hand to provide more information and advice on the next steps.

As a council, we have identified that there is significant provision for people to access a wide range of affordable nutritious meals, without the need for a subsidised meals on wheels delivery contract. We have a robust directory and can support people to identify a variety of food options either through food pantries, community shops or apps such as ‘too good to go’. The city has a wealth of community services able to support those in need and Adult Services are able to direct where required. Information has been posted in a letter from Southampton City Council which will give our residents some initial alternative choices to consider.

Provision of food is not subject to means testing and the review process will take into account which options will be affordable, for individuals to choose from. Other support will include Care Act reviews by adult social care workers, for those identified as particularly vulnerable to make sure their needs are met.

Customers or carers with urgent concerns regarding the removal of meals on wheels service can contact Adult Social Care on 023 8083 3003.