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Kingsclere parish councillors criticise 'shocking' borough council toilet block offer

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Kingsclere Parish Council has hit out at borough council officers over its handling of the sale of the village toilet block.

In 2020, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council informed the parish that it was looking to close the public toilets in Swan Street on April 1, 2021, to save money.

The parish council agreed to take it over in principle for £1 to prevent the block from being closed – however, it couldn’t commit to it without a proposal from the borough council.

The toilets in Swan Street
The toilets in Swan Street

Since then, the parish council has been working on the cost and logistics of running the toilets, and in February this year it received documentation from the borough council over the transfer.

However, the parish has criticised the borough council over this document, which runs to just three-quarters of a page and was delivered too late to be considered ahead of this financial year’s budget.

In a council meeting on April 25, chairman John Sawyer described it as a “shocking offer,” while fellow councillor Nicola Peach – who works as a lawyer – labelled it “highly deficient”, and queried where the “proper legal documents” were, such as the office copy entry, which confirms ownership.

Councillor Stuart Frost (55336939)
Councillor Stuart Frost (55336939)

Borough councillors Ken Rhatigan and Stuart Frost (both Con, Tadley North, Kingsclere and Baughurst) said they hadn’t been involved in the process or cc’d into any emails.

Mr Frost said he was “absolutely incandescent” and “embarrassed” that he hadn’t seen the document and would be taking it up with the officer concerned.

Mr Sawyer said costings suggested the toilet block could cost the council around £15,000 a year to run and meet all its legal requirements.

If it wasn’t able to receive grant money for the block, taking the block on would require the council to increase its precept again considerably, after it attracted criticism this year for putting it up by around 35 per cent.

A parish council spokesperson said: “This proposal came as a complete surprise to us and is incomplete.

“It might appear at first glance to be a good offer for the village, but it does not allow for the ongoing maintenance and running costs of more than £10,000pa and the business rates, which may apply.

“We simply don't know yet if these ongoing costs will be covered by a grant from the borough or if the parish council will be expected to raise the funds.

“Until these costs are understood, we cannot proceed.

“In addition, the 2022/23 budget is now set so there is no money available to take this further this year in any case.

“We will continue to negotiate with the borough council on behalf of the village.”

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