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Row boils up over Otley town toilets revamp
A £110,000 project to re-build Otley’s town centre toilets will help revitalise the town – or prove a “grand folly”.
The Labour-controlled Town Council voted to take out a ten- year loan for the Orchard Gate scheme when it met on Monday.
Labour says the long-awaited revamp will deliver staffed, vandalism-free facilities that the town as a tourist hub – with one eye on the 2014 Tour de France – can finally be proud of.
But the Liberal Democrat opposition claim the project’s increased costs are part of a trend that could saddle residents with “huge debt”.
Ward and Town Councillor Sandy Lay (Lib Dem, Danefield) said: “I have all along been concerned about the enormous cost attached to the renovation of the rented toilets and the Otley Core Resource Centre. We agree on the need for both, we have disagreed on the solutions.
“The project has ballooned in costs to a whopping £110,000. (With annual staffing and other costs) this will equate to a yearly cost of £53,000, nearly 20 per cent of the current total budget.
“When they brought forward this grand folly we were promised staffing costs of £25,000 per annum, they are now £36,000; and we were promised a loan payment of £8,000 – it is now more than £12,000.
“Labour will say the Liberals got us into this situation by taking on the toilets but we have to remember that, at the time, there were no toilets in the old library, nor a Sainsbury’s, nor even a Wetherspoons.”
Labour accepts the council will be paying about £12,700 back for ten years for the loan, but insists the actual running costs for the toilets – thanks to an anticipated greater income and reduced vandalism – will only be about £5,000, or 1.5 per cent of its budget.
Group and council leader Councillor John Eveleigh (Lab, Ashfield) is convinced it will be money well spent.
He said: “We have been delighted to award the contract, subject to the loan being approved, to a local company, Basil Houldsworth & Sons.
“The state of the town centre public conveniences and their opening hours have long been a major source of complaints from residents and visitors. By the end of the year the town will have a fully-staffed and much improved facility.”
Councillor Nigel Gill (Lab. Manor) added: “The previous Lib Dem administration agreed to take on the contract for public convenience provision within the town centre. As with other matters, we are having to sort out the problems they left behind.
“Some Lib Dem councillors are suggesting we shouldn’t invest in this facility. That is short-sighted and irresponsible.
“We are taking a responsible course of action.”
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