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Toilets Row All Over Bar The Shouting

Gavels were banged, voiced raised and accusations thrown, but Coventry City Council is no nearer deciding where its city centre toilets will go.

Most of the arguments previously raised in the past three months were aired again today by the scrutiny board looking at the plans to move the information centre in Coventry Central Library and putting public toilets in its place.

Unable to break its impasse, the board chose, on the chairman’s vote to refer the matter to next week’s council as a dispute.

The final, binding decision will take place then. As the party whip is applied to that meeting it is likely that the Labour cabinet will get its way and public toilets will go on the ground floor of the library building, with the information centre being moved to the first floor.

Staff and library users are angry at the lack of consultation over the principle of the toilets being put in the building.

They also don’t want the existing customer toilets, on the first floor, to be replaced and fear that the well-used information centre will decline if it is moved to the first floor.

The cabinet say that the need for public toilets in the city centre is great, and this is the cheapest and most viable building available. The toilets would be staffed, separated from the library by a partition and would be open longer than library hours, seven days a week.

During today’s often angry meeting, Cllr Dave Batten, cabinet member (Development and Renewal) fended off criticism from “backbench” councillors on the scrutiny board.

He said:

“The only logical and affordable place is the library building on the ground floor.”

To use a shop unit would cost around £400,000 in building costs, instead of £250,000 to convert the information centre. There would also be a loss of income.

Cllr Joe Clifford (Lab, Woodlands), the only Labour councillor who opposed the plans today criticised plans to have the gents toilets in the basements.

He also said the public consultation had been inadequate. Cllr Batten admitted that the council had not initiated any public consultation, but library staff had put out their own survey.

It resulted in an overwhelming majority in favour of retaining the first floor toilets.

Cllr Batten said as a result of this, this option was being considered. But it meant he couldn’t say where exactly the information centre would go.

He said if the first floor toilets were to be replaced then a scheme would have to be worked out to decide which would move first, as the information centre is due to swap place with the toilets.

Cllr Batten said that until the go-ahead for the scheme was given, these details would not be produced.

Cllr Karen McKay  (Socialist, St Michael’s) said:

“There has been no attempt to understand the library’s concerns. The impact this could have on the library service has almost been ignored.”

Cllr Batten retorted that many of the campaigners were pushing inaccurate facts in their crusade. He said:

”The toilets are going to be in the library building, not the library. The information centre is not going to be closed, it is going to be moved.”

During a very heated exchange with Cllr McKay he called her a liar, but later withdrew this at the invitation of the chair, Cllr Ken Taylor (Cons, Earlsdon), who tried to break the shouting match up by banging his gavel on the table.

The vote on accepting the plan was split seven-all, but Cllr Ken Taylor used his casting vote to send the matter into dispute. It will now be considered at 7pm on Thursday 16 November.


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CWN / Politics / Coventry City Council / 9 Nov 00
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