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Cracks Papered Over To Bowl Toilets Through

Toilets will be built in the ground floor of the library building, despite last-minute pleas from library staff for councillors to change their minds.

As a result the information centre will be moved upstairs. Disability groups, library staff and users all argued that this would lead to a fall in visitors.

Every Labour councillor  - including some previously opposed to the scheme – voted in favour of the scheme at last night’s council meeting.

All the opposition councillors voted against it. Issues raised during the protest include the unsuitability of the library for public toilets, and the lack of consultation over the choice of the location.

But cabinet members have argued that the toilets are greatly needed, and there is no other suitable city centre location.

Labour members all voted together last night to show “party solidarity” but were not put on an official whips, leaders said.

The proposal, set to cost £250,000, means the current Information Centre will be relocated to the first floor, the gents toilets will be located in the basement of the building, with the ladies on the ground floor. 

Cllr Dave Batten, Cabinet Member (Development and Renewal), said:

"I am pleased that the City Council has taken the decision to move forward with this proposal which will provide high quality public toilets within the city centre.

“One of the promises we made back in May this year was that we would listen to the public's concerns about the lack of accessible and decent facilities.

“We have listened to their comments, discussed the different options open to us and come to the decision that the Central Library building is the best way forward.

“It was decided that this option was the best location taking into account the costs of refurbishing the old Upper Precinct facilities, using a vacant city centre shop premises or building a completely new facility.

“The city centre is getting more and more popular, with around 1 million people now visiting the centre of our city. People expect to see accessible and decent public toilet facilities when they come into the centre of a city and this is what we shall provide."

Cllr Karen McKay (Socialist, St Michael’s), a former library worker said she will continue to support the staff if they maintain their opposition, and spoke against the scheme at last night’s meeting

She said:

“I made the point that if they were big enough they would back down from it, but it would have been embarrassing for them to admit they had got it wrong.”

Cllr McKay said she was disappointed that all the Labour members voted together.

The whip is not applied at the scrutiny stage of discussions, and she said it should have been left to a free vote at the meeting as it was in front of the council because it was a dispute from scrutiny.

Cllr Batten pledged to keep talking to affected groups about the development. He said:

" I and my colleagues appreciate that there has been some opposition to this proposal from library staff and some members of the public and that is what local democracy is all about.

“But we must now unite behind the project to move forward so we can provide these much needed facilities, which the city centre is crying out for. We will be in on-going discussion with library staff and others connected to the plans so together we can deliver a high quality facility for local people and visitors alike."  
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CWN / Politics / Coventry City Council / 17 Nov 00
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