September 2 2014 Latest news:
Wednesday, May 7, 2014
A district council has been accused of sending out conflicting messages by supporting economic growth but failing to provide public conveniences in tourist hot spots.
Over the past two years, Babergh signed over management of public toilets in towns and villages such as Sudbury and Lavenham to the relevant parish councils as a cost saving measure – but in some cases every time someone “spends a penny”, it costs the parish authority £10.
To avoid losing its facilities, Long Melford Parish Council took on toilets in Cordell Road and on the village green for a 12 month trial period from April 2013, and continued to pay a Babergh appointed cleaning contractor.
The parish also assumed responsibility for a third toilet block in the newly refurbished Long Melford Country Park.
But according to parish clerk Gifford Lewis, now the year is up, no arrangements have been made for the future management of the facilities and the parish is paying for maintenance on a month-by-month basis until Babergh responds to calls for a formal plan.
Last night, Babergh’s corporate manager for public realm, Chris Moran, said the council had not changed its stance on public conveniences since they were reviewed prior to the 2011/12 budget and it was decided that the seven toilet blocks managed by the district authority would close unless the local parishes were prepared to take them on.
In the meantime, it has cost Long Melford parish around £17,000 per year for the Cordell Road and village green public conveniences – including £2,700 for business rates – the latter of which has been ‘mothballed’ because of the excessive costs compared to usage.
Mr Lewis said: “Even on a very busy day, the toilets on the green are used around 30 times, so far from ‘spending a penny’ it works out around £10 every time a person uses the loo.
“While £17,000 doesn’t sound like a huge amount, it is significant sum to be added on to the parish precept and there is a question about whether local people should pay for something that is essentially used by visitors.
“We would be prepared to look after the toilets but we need a contractual agreement in place and to do this, we need to know where the district council is with its maintenance contracts.”
Parish council chairman Peter Turner said they could no longer afford to open the toilets on the green.
He added: “Much as we hate to get in the way of the call of nature, at the end of the day, we have to balance our books.
“It does seem totally contradictory that the district council is so keen to promote economic development but seems unwilling to support the facilities that help to boost tourism.”
Last night, Mr Moran said: “Long Melford Parish council is looking after the Cordell Road toilets on a short term maintenance basis. Our contract with the Landscape Group is due to end in October and we will be having discussions about whether to extend this. We will advise Long Melford when we have made a decision but it will be up to them if they want to find alternative cleaning arrangements.
“As far as we are concerned, these public toilets are closed and it will be up to the parish council if they want to continue running them in the long term.”