Cuts to toilets attract notice of councillors

The public toilets in The Shambles in Alnwick town centre.
The public toilets in The Shambles in Alnwick town centre.

Among the county council’s proposed savings in its budget for 2015 to 2017, the cuts to public toilets in particular caught the eye of town councillors in Alnwick.

At last Thursday’s meeting of Alnwick Town Council, members discussed the issue of making a decision on the precept for the next financial year in the light of proposals in the Northumberland County Council budget.

One which sparked a great deal of discussion was the public conveniences review, which is listed as a saving of £242,000 or 41 per cent of its budget.

Coun Alan Symmonds reported that he had raised the issue at the local authority’s north area committee meeting that Monday and was told that the review didn’t mean closing toilets, but finding ways of saving money on how they are run.

Town and county councillor Gordon Castle explained that Alnwick would need to take some of that burden as while many rural councils could not take on toilets, Alnwick arguably has the size of precept to be able to do it.

The clerk reported that Morpeth Town Council spends £70,000 looking after three sets of public toilets, earning £5,000 back from the county council.

Suggestions for Alnwick included working out whether the Greenwell Lane toilets were needed and investigating the cost of running the Shambles facilities via the town council.

Coun Peter Broom said: “Public toilets are the one big agenda that everyone has in Alnwick.

“It’s not our money, but if people are prepared to pay a bit more money to have a decent service then so be it.”

But Coun David Farrar said that the town council should not make any concessions until speaking to the county council, especially if others aren’t.

Members agreed that as much information as possible about the proposals should be sought ahead of the January meeting to allow for decisions to be made regarding the precept.