By Betsy Everett
The toilet in Askrigg for disabled people could become the main public facility in the village following the withdrawal of funding by Richmondshire District Council.
Bruce Fawcett, newly-elected chairman of Askrigg and Low Abbotside parish council, said the suggestion had come from a resident following a public meeting to discuss the fate of the public loos which are inside the village hall.
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They are open 24 hours a day, every day of the year, and cost an estimated £1500 to £2000 a year to run.
Instead, he suggested, the single, disabled toilet outside the village hall could be converted for everyday use by the public. This would reduce costs by leaving the main toilets for the exclusive use of those who rented the hall.
Martin Garside, treasurer of the village hall committee, said the cost of keeping the village hall toilets open included cleaning, toilet rolls, and hand-wash servicing. Although local shopkeepers and cafe owners had offered to make donations, Mr Garside said the committee was reluctant to put an extra financial burden on local businesses.
Mr Garside questioned whether installing honesty boxes might distract from the revenue of those in the village car parks, but members agreed this was unlikely. At national park premises which had donation boxes these had been well supported and cyclists and walkers would, it was felt, be willing contributors.
Cllr Allen Kirkbride thought the parish council would be willing to make a donation if the village hall itself needed interim funding, and district councillor Yvonne Peacock said it would be up to the hall committee to decide the way forward.
A pilot scheme for charging 20 pence at public toilets throughout Richmondshire had been completed and it was possible it might be extended throughout the county but no final decision had been taken.
In a letter to Richmondshire District Council, county councillor John Blackie had questioned why the district council had withdrawn funding from the Askrigg toilets, when they had “unallocated reserves” of around £2 million.
“Why is it impossible to allocate from this huge pile of cash sitting in the RDC bank account the meagre payment needed to keep this invaluable and essential public convenience facility in Askrigg properly funded in the future, as it has been for at least 20 years or more?” he asked.
Colin Dales, corporate director of operations at the district council, told Mr Blackie that the council had to make efficiencies and had agreed with the hall committee an extension of the grant to allow them to put alternative arrangements in place.
Cllr Yvonne Peacock told parish council members that the reserve was not an issue.
“The simple fact is, the government says we have to keep those reserves. We cannot possibly know what will come up in the future and we have to keep our finances right. We have already made enormous savings, turning around a huge deficit, and by 2020 we have to be entirely self-sufficient with no money at all coming in from central government,” she said.