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Soaring costs threaten Swaffham loos

PUBLISHED: 09:16 13 March 2009 | UPDATED: 11:13 08 July 2010

The cost of operating public toilets in Swaffham could "spiral out of control", councillors have warned.

Having been presented with a series of bills for vandalism and general running costs over the past few months, members of Swaffham Town Council have called in to question the future of the town's public toilets.

The cost of operating public toilets in Swaffham could “spiral out of control”, councillors have warned.

Having been presented with a series of bills for vandalism and general running costs over the past few months, members of Swaffham Town Council have called in to question the future of the town's public toilets.

At their monthly meeting on Wednesday, members expressed doubt as to whether the facility, located on The Shambles next to the former tourist information centre, should stay open in the long-term.

Ian Sherwood said: “When we looked at taking over the toilets I advised strongly against it.

“There are other ways of providing toilets to the public.

“I think we have really got to look at this again. It is just going to spiral out of control.”

Deputy Mayor David Harman and others agreed with his sentiments, but when chairman Shirley Matthews suggested that Mr Sherwood propose the future of the toilets be debated at next month's meeting he refused.

The council took over the responsibility for the toilets in a deal struck with Breckland Council in 2007 where Swaffham received a

one-off payment of £245,000 to cover their costs.

The toilets were reopened in March 2008 after a £115,000 revamp, which left £130,000 to pay for running costs over the next 10 years.

But since it reopened, the public convenience has been subjected to regular and costly vandalism, and bills for electricity and water

have raised eyebrows among councillors.

Various items have been broken and on several occasions toilet walls have been smeared with excrement - something for which the police

have refused to issue a crime number, resulting in the council being unable to claim back the

clean-up bill on its insurance.

Initially, the council had

planned to charge 20p for entry

to the toilets, but this idea was abandoned last November after councillors heard the cost of fitting slot machines to the cubicles

would be between £562 and £784 per door.

Wednesday's meeting heard that the latest water bill had come in at more than £1,000 and hand washing and drying units in toilets would also have to be serviced.

Councillors were given the option of paying £498 plus parts and VAT

for a one-off service or £1,414 plus VAT for a twice-yearly service contract, which would also see a 25pc discount on any parts needed.

Paul Derby questioned why the council had installed “the Rolls Royce of hand washing” in the toilets.

David Wickerson said that hand washing facilities had to be provided while the toilets were open - a view shared by the majority of the council which voted to pay for the cost of a one-off service.

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