Spending a penny could cost council thousands

COUNCIL bosses could be spending more than a penny or two with plans for a major toilet block make-over.

Members of Morpeth Town Council are having designs drawn up to refurbish and upgrade the Terrace Car Park toilets near St George’s United Reformed Church.

And the work, which is estimated to cost up to £25,000, could allow for an attendant to be put in post to supervise the facilities.

Currently, there is nowhere for an attendant to sit and the toilets have suffered from vandalism.

County councillors Andrew Tebbutt and David Moore have each offered £7,000 from their Small Schemes Allowances to contribute to the scheme and the town authority, which manages the facilities on behalf of Northumberland County Council, would also have to find funds.

Deputy Clerk Angela Logan said: “We are busy getting quotes from different suppliers and are working alongside the county council because they are still county owned premises.

“We really need to consider the options. If we are going to put an attendant area in these toilets in future, to have either a full-time or part-time attendant, the toilets aren’t very flush with facilities, such as an area for the attendant to be in, or to keep their cleaning materials in. We would probably have to give up the male urinal space to make room, but we would still be able to provide three toilets, two ladies’ and one gents’.

“We could just refurbish what is there now, without an attendant, but then we would have to build in anti-vandal measures because there would be nobody on site to manage the toilets.

“We are hopeful we can come up with a scheme, but we do need to make a decision about whether we want an attendant area.”

Members of the council’s Property and Asset Management Committee were initially supportive of the idea of installing an attendant room.

Coun Tebbutt said: “There will be a cost, but if we were going to spend £25,000 on doing these toilets up, just to leave them open to vandalism seems a bit short-sighted. While 99 per cent of the population would treat them respectfully, it is the one percent that do the damage.”

Coun Derek Thompson added: “The first question that needs to be addressed is whether they will be staffed or not. Looking back on the history of the town council, these toilets have been a problem with dubious practices and vandalism. We know there has been a problem and if we are going to spend money we need to decide if they are going to be staffed or not.”

Councillors were told that designs will be drawn up for both options, including costings, to be presented to the group for a decision at a later date.

Northumberland County Council has now confirmed that both The Terrace Car Park and Carlisle Park toilets are classed as ‘strategic’ and it will pay a £5,000 management fee to the town council for maintaining them.