Ice-cream man feels left out in the cold

Jimmy Robinson in one of his ice-cream vans in Lurgan
Jimmy Robinson in one of his ice-cream vans in Lurgan

A popular Lurgan ice-cream man says he feels left out in the cold amid issues over a tender contract.

Jimmy Robinson says he feels frozen out by the council due to terms of his contract which, he says, can prevent him from attending top events.

Mr Robinson, who has been trading for 34 years, explained that he tenders for a trading licence at various parks and pays a significant price in order to trade at these locations.

He said he bought a £40,000 trailer especially for Portadown’s People’s Park but, at one of the biggest events at that park last weekend, he was unable to trade.

Mr Robinson said he was particularly aggrieved as he had traded during the Craigavon Cup at the People’s Park last year. He accepted that his contract allowed the council to hire out the park for various events up to four times a year and those who hire the park can then request tenders for any food outlet or ice-cream provider to trade in the park at that event. However, he believes that the terms are unfair and he should not have to vacate the park, particularly for major events.

Robinson’s Ice Cream was voted second in this year’s Mobiler of the Year - run by the Ice Cream Alliance (UK and Ireland).

“We are the biggest mobile company in NI. That trailer I put into Portadown Park cost me £40k and was parked up last weekend as the Council let someone else in,” said Mr Robinson. He said it upsets him that he has already paid the Council ‘tender money’ but is ‘put out’ of the park during these events unless he submits a separate tender.

“All I am asking is to be treated fairly. I was at this event last year. The park isn’t that busy and, without getting into these events, it is not really worth our while.”

“I have been working at ice cream over 34 years now and worked for many councils over the years but the only council to treat me this way is Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council - the area I live in, pay my taxes, employ full and part time workers in the Borough,” said Mr Robinson.

A Council source said the tendering process is similar to many across councils in NI and has a clause that, for up to five events, those who win the tender can be asked to vacate the plot while the venue is hired by an outside contract.

The source added that those who win tenders are equally entitled to submit a separate tender to independent contractors who hire council venues.