Funding withdrawn from Ford and Etal public toilets

Etal Village

Etal Village

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A row has broken out in Ford and Etal after Northumberland County Council withdrew its £3,500 contribution to the upkeep of its public toilets.

Ford Parish Council has complained the decision was taken without prior consultation and that it ignores previous acceptance that its WCs are ‘strategic’ toilets, meant for tourists and only open during the season.

Chairman Val Keating also expressed dissatisfaction with council leader Grant Davey’s response to previous letters of complaint which “we consider to be not only unfair but high-handed and discourteous in the extreme”.

In a letter to Councillor Davey, published in The Clarion newsletter, she said: “There was an abuse of process in the handling of this decision because there was no consultation with this council about Northumberland County Council’s withdrawal of funding.

“There was no formal notification about the withdrawal of funding – indeed it only emerged as a result of a routine enquiry from our clerk in March.

“This meant that even if we accepted the decision we could not raise our precept, currently about £1,100 to cover the running costs of £2,300.

She added: “The decision goes against both the spirit and requirement of your own Code of Conduct.

“The decision is irrational because it is in direct conflict with the county council’s policy about support for “strategic assets”; the council and its officers were always aware of the ownership of the toilets and suggesting that this had only recently emerged is untrue.”

The parish council has requested further details of the “You’re Welcome” scheme, with a one-off payment of £300, which has been offered as an alternative for one year.

“While we completely understand the county council’s financial problems, it clearly doesn’t understand ours,” said Mrs Keating.

In the meantime, Ford and Etal Estates is paying for the cleaning costs and consumables of the public toilets at Ford, Etal and Heatherslaw.

A council spokesman said: “The leader of council has written to Ford and Etal Parish Council to explain the situation in relation to these toilets.

“Due to the very challenging financial situation, and the savings that the council has to make, it is having to look very closely at all expenditure.

“These toilets are not owned by the council and the support towards their costs was an on-going arrangement taken over from Berwick Borough Council. Regrettably we are not able to carry this on.”

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