THE take-over of March’s City Road toilets by the town council split members at Monday night’s meeting.
Just one vote decided the future of the toilets, which are threatened with closure by Fenland Council, with town councillors voting six to five in favour of the town council taking them over.
A report presented to the meeting by Councillor Kit Owen highlighted the implications of the take-over, which would see the town signing a five-year lease set to cost just £100 a year.
However, the town council will be responsible for the running costs, which are estimated at around £13,000 a year for the conveniences to be kept open for the six months of summer.
Accurate costings have yet to be obtained but Mr Owen explained his figures were based on Fenland Council’s figures .
He had approached various local businesses to gain quotes for the maintenance of the loos which would include locking and unlocking them, replenishing consumables as well as cleaning.
And he was confident the £13,200 suggested by Fenland was likely to be the highest cost.
Members heard taking over the toilets would mean a possible 10 per cent increase in the council’s annual precept - the equivalent of around £2 a year or just 4p a week for the average Band D council tax bill.
Prior to giving his report Mr Owen asked members to give an indication on whether or not the toilets should be saved. They face closure as part of Fenland’s cost-cutting measures with the district council stating it will only be responsible for one set of public loos in each of the area’s four towns.
At that stage all but one of the 11 members present said they would like to see the City Road toilets retained with Councillor Steve Count the only one to speak out against keeping them.
He was not convinced about the ‘staying open option’ and pointed out the Broad Street toilets, which are being retained and revamped by Fenland Council, were not too far for people to go from the park.
After hearing Mr Owen’s report and the possible cost to the town council four members changed their minds and voted against the town council taking them over each stating the expense was too high.
Mr Count said he could not condone a possible 10 per cent rise in the precept and was also concerned at a potential by the government to impose a three per cent cap on future rises.
He said if the council was forced to stick within a three per cent precept rise then the running costs would have to be taken from reserves.
“We have to present balanced budgets, we are putting the reserves at risk and I personally have to say we cannot afford this step,” said Mr Count.
Newly installed Mayor Jan French pointed out that if members voted against taking over the toilets then they would be closed and boarded up by Fenland Council immediately after the town’s summer festival in June.
Exact costings for the running of the toilets will be presented at next month’s town council meeting.