Beadnell Parish Council refuses to fund winter upkeep of public toilets
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The beach toilets, managed by Northumberland County Council, are currently kept open in the winter as part of an effort to encourage year-round tourism.
Before Covid struck, the county council agreed to provide the facility all year if the parish paid £1,000 contribution in the first year and £2,000 in following years.
The parish council agreed but then the pandemic hit in 2020 and the county council themselves kept the toilet block open for the following two years.
The county council again asked the parish council to make the initial £1,000 contribution for last winter and to contribute £2,000 every coming year if the toilet block is to remain open.
The parish council, which has a precept of £12,000 collected from Council Tax payers, have already paid the £1,000.
A parish councillor said: “Parish councils in the county have been asked by Northumberland County Council in recent years to take over financial responsibility for playgrounds, waste bins and bus shelters.
“In addition, we run Beadnell cemetery, pay for some local grass cutting, meet our statutory obligations and employ a clerk, all on a budget of £12,000 per year.
"Beadnell Parish Council tries to keep the expenditure as low as possible as the share paid by individual local Council Tax payers increases each year as more local houses move to being holiday lets. We also realise that many of our residents are employed in often low paid, seasonal jobs.
“Whilst we do appeal to local holiday let owners who are registered for business rates, to make a voluntary contribution towards the parish council income, and whilst this year we have received our highest response, these donations are not guaranteed. Less than a third of holiday let owners contribute each year.”
The councillor added: "Beadnell Parish Council already pay Northumberland County Council nearly £2,000 a year for weekly safety checks in the playground and we also cover the additional playground costs of over £1,000 pa for an annual inspection, insurance, grass and hedge cutting and repairs.
“Northumberland County Council collects over £100,000 pa from Beadnell Car Park, and this year has additional income from a very successful overnight campervan parking scheme in the same car park. This scheme generated nearly £7,000 from April to December 2022.
“Demands on our parish council precept for items such as insurance, safety checks on the playground, maintenance, of local trees and repairs to walls are rising.
"We are also now looking at having to replace some of the largest equipment in our well-used playground in the next couple of years.
"After careful consideration Beadnell Parish Council does not think we can commit to paying a sixth of our precept to Northumberland County Council every year to provide a facility rarely used by residents of the parish.”
Fears of closure were dismissed when local ward county councillor Guy Renner-Thompson stepped in with a temporary funding solution.
He said: “ Public toilets are extremely important to the council and at a time when many have been closed across the country we are actively investing in them.
“We also know that many of our higher footfall areas in tourist hotspots can be popular even at more traditionally quieter periods of the year.
"Moving forward we are looking at selective winter openings and other options as part of the budget process this year.
"And as a temporary measure to address the issues raised by Beadnell parish council I will be using my Members Local Improvement Scheme funding to cover the shortfall for this year.”