Union Travel Centre Under Threat of Closure

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A report issued last week on behalf of the Union Management Board and notices issued by the Union’s Travel Centre have suggested the possibility of the Travel Centre being closed down next month.

The Union Management Board, responsible for large-scale financial decisions within the Union, is currently in consultation over the future of the Travel Centre until Monday 12th April. If they decide that the centre will be closed, then it would mean that staff, some of who have worked at the centre since it opened over 20 years ago, will lose their jobs.

A report on the future of the Travel Centre, presented last week by Jacki Booth, the Union’s General Manager to the Board, highlights the long term financial loss – past and future – of keeping the Centre. It reports that the Union recommends ‘very strongly’ the ‘possible immediate closure of the centre’.

The Union travel centre is located above the SUSU shop, and has been a part of the Union since 1976. The financial Report, issued to staff on 26th March, states however that ‘the Union has been carefully reviewing the performance of the Union Travel Centre for over 10 years.’

Minutes from a Union Council Meeting on 16th June 2008 stated that ‘The revenue made by the Travel Centre has steadily decreased throughout a number of years’, ‘the commercial service is currently functioning at a substantial loss’, and ‘the long term sustainability of the Travel Centre is uncertain.’

During that year, the Centre was subsidised £30,000 by Union funds. The following Union Management Board meeting later that month proposed plans to ensure that this figure was to break even by 2011. (Minutes can be accessed here.) It was planned that by 2010 only £10,000 would be aimed to be subsidised by Union funds. However, it was estimated by a member of the Union Management Board last November that the deficit of the Centre by the end of the financial year would be between £30,000 and £50,000 for the Union.

In total, the Travel Centre has been subsidised over £180,000 by the Student Union in the last ten years. Furthermore, the report highlights that the closing of the Centre would free up £150,000 in bonds that the Travel Centre currently holds, which could be spent elsewhere in the Union.

The Travel Centre has issued a statement regarding the consultation saying: ‘The Students’ Union is currently in a consultation period […] which will determine the future of The Travel Centre.’ The Centre has said that they will now only take bookings for travel dates up to the date by which the decision will be made in just over two weeks time. They have also said that they ‘will issue further information as soon as it is available.’ The notice has also been emailed to staff at the Union.

The news comes at a time where finance and funding have became a key political debate for students and staff at the University. Last week it was announced that the University’s Sport Studies degree will be cut, and recently the Daily Echo reported that 200 positions at the University intend to be phased out. The Union, which is separate from the university, stated in the report that ‘there is a good track record of the Union making steps to minimise costs, increase sales and attempt to continue the operation of this service. At all levels, trustees, senior management and Travel Centre staff have worked for many years to manage the situation.’

The Travel Centre will remain open as usual (9.30am to 4.00pm) until the Easter break when all Union and University buildings will be closed from Friday 2nd April, 2010 until Wednesday 7th April, 2010.

The decision on the closure of the Travel Centre will be made by 17 trustees of the Union council, including the current Union sabbatical and executive team. The outcome of the Union’s consultation will be announced before the 12th April.

Staff at the Travel Centre did not want to comment.

Do you use the Travel Centre? Do you think that it is a valuable part of the Union and should remain open? Or do you think that there is no longer a need for it within our Union and the money should be spent elsewhere? Please leave us your comments below.

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Discussion2 Comments

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    I’ve been very involved in SUSU at my time at Uni, and I have never used the travel center – I don’t even fully understand what they offer.

    If they are genuinely offering a really good service to students that they can benefit from then the problem has been down to their marketing – how much they’ve done, and the methods they’ve used. If not, then yes – of course it should be closed down. A department can’t be operating on such a substantial annual loss.

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