Not spending a penny saves council pounds

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COLERAINE council’s winter pilot scheme to close a number of public toilets in the borough has saved £26,000, it has been revealed.

Fielding questions about the success of the scheme at last week’s council meeting Kieran Doherty, Corporate Director of Environmental Services, revealed that plans are afoot to extend the scheme from three months to six months, which could lead to further savings.

“We ran the scheme as a pilot from January to March this year, which enabled us to make savings of £26,000,” he said.

“We are looking to extend the period from the start of British Winter Time to the end of British Winter Time (October to March inclusive), which we project would save us £50,000.”

Several councillors raised their concerns about it though saying they had recieved a number of complaints about public toilets being closed.

However, Mr Doherty said council itself had recieved a ‘limited response’ from the public about the scheme, apart from the toilets at Christie Park in Coleraine.

“The key learning from the pilot scheme is that while there was limited response to the vast majority of sites being closed there was a significant response to the toilets being closed at Christie Park,” he said.

“There will always be pain associated with austerity measure, but the pain associated with the closure of these toilets was significant to the point were we will have to look at it again.

“There will always be a number of complaints when the nut is tightened on efficiency savings. But we have to judge dies this make a good enough argument to keep something open or not.”

Cllr George Duddy asked Mr Doherty about disabled toilet provision and also the exact number of complaints council received about the closures.

Mr Doherty said that apart from Christie Park council only received seven other complaints. He also revealed the disabled toilet access was also scaled down.

“There was access to disabled toilets at a number of sites through the Radar Key,” said Mr Doherty.

“However, a number of other sites were closed completely as we drained the water to prevent legionella and also so the pipes wouldn’t burst during the bad weather. We also shut down the electric.

“Because of this we were unable to keep the disabled facilities on site open. However, these factors helped us make the savings.”