A Bury St Edmunds rehab charity has been forced to scrap an ‘inspirational’ annual reunion for recovering and former addicts after being hit by soaring charges to use a publicly funded venue.
Focus12 has held the event at The Apex for the last two years - using its own choice of caterers who donated their time for free and paying just £1,500 in hire fees.
However, the hire has shot up and the charity has been told it can only use the services of Sodexo Prestige, which has taken over catering at the venue - leaving bosses faced with a bill of about £6,000.
Chip Somers, chief executive of Focus12, says there is nowhere else in Bury big enough to accommodate the 15-year-old event, which usually attracts 350 former and currents clients as well as their familes. In the past it has also hosted the charity’s patrons Russell Brand, Davina McCall and Boy George.
He said: “This new pricing structure has made it completely impossible for us to do it. Taxpayers bill the facility and then it almost gets privatised so the whole nature of everything is for profit.
“It was supposed to be a facility for local residents and now it’s only for events that will make money.”
The reunion, which is usually held in August, gives former addicts the chance to share their experiences and success stories. Mr Somers said: “It was such an inspirational event for everyone who attended particularly families. It gives families who are struggling a lot of hope. It’s great to have somewhere where you can see the other side of addiction and celebrate that people’s lives are back together. It’s a really positive thing and a great shame we won’t be able to hold it anymore.”
A spokesman for Sodexo said they were ‘disappointed’ to learn Focus12 had decided not to hold the event at the Apex.
He said: “Having provided a provisional quote in early April, we were unaware of any concerns they had. We remain committed to supporting local businesses and charities and, since taking over the contract at the Apex last year, we continue to improve not only the facilities at the venue but the offers available too.
“We believe these changes are in keeping with the venue’s potential and look forward to seeing it become a popular choice for a wide range of functions and events.”
A spokesman for St Edmundsbury Borough Council said Sodexo was appointed a year ago to provide commercial hospitality and catering at their town centre sites.
She added: “Overall customer feedback suggests that Sodexo’s substantial investment is proving successful.”