Central suffering ‘unsustainable losses’ and may close without rent reduction

The SU is asking for a rent reduction until January 2021

In an open letter sent to Lancaster University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andy Schofield, the Students’ Union’s Full-Time Officers (FTOs) have requested that the Union-run campus convenience store, Central, receives a rent reduction until January 2021.

Central has been open throughout the coronavirus pandemic, and has been available to anyone who has remained on campus since the pandemic forced university teaching to move online, back in March.

The open letter reveals that if Central does not receive a reduction in rent, then the Students’ Union will have no option but to close the store. It was revealed that Central’s rent is somewhere around £58,000 – the Union is facing its budget being slashed by up to one-third, so is already under severe financial pressure.

In the letter, the FTO team say: “We as students took the right decision to keep Central open during COVID-19 for our students, despite making losses every day. With SPAR having been shut on campus since 16th July and with no confirmed reopening dates, Central is the sole lifeline for students on campus during this current situation.

“Due to the unsustainable losses we are making by remaining open for students, if there is no rent reduction or rent waiver from yourself in the University, you will be forcing us into the position where our only option is to shut Central.

“We are requesting a 50 per cent rent reduction until January 2021 in line with our current operating position. This will ensure we can reach a break-even position while continuing to serve students.

“The Union is here for students, and we hope that the University is too.”

One Union official told the Tab Lancaster that the budget cuts were being made by the University over fears that student intake will have plummeted as a result of the coronavirus pandemic – however, official UCAS statistics state that more domestic students than ever will be going to university in 2020.

It is yet to be seen how Lancaster University will respond to the open letter, however the FTOs have said: “During our initial conversations, it has been made very clear that the University will not be offering a rent waiver or even a reduction for our shop premises.”

Lancaster University Students’ Union FTOs’ full open letter to Professor Andy Schofield can be found here.