Between 1989-1991 the Council decided to install 3 automatic, single toilet units on 30 year contracts at a total forward rental cost to the Tax payer of £1.9m. This was being paid at £5400 per month to keep them sited at Cavendish Island, London Road, and Nottingham Road. It is difficult to assess whether these were truly value for money but a decision to commit to a 30 year contract seems “extravagant”
There is still between 2-4 years left on the rental contracts, amounting to £220,000. The current Council has decided to ‘bite the bullet’, and cancel them to save money, however the lessor has not allowed a straightforward cancellation; they have imposed a penalty of £120,000. This, together with a saving of 4 months worth of rental, in this financial year, results in a one-off cost to the Council of £99,000; this has been taken from reserves. Future years will see a saving of £65k pa.
The early-termination penalty is not unusual, and this decision seems to be a sensible action given the circumstances. Its assumed that the Council has assessed the occupancy levels of the toilets, together with the availability of options.
The question is, why wait so long to make the decision. The Council has been telling us about the parlous state of the finances for years, with critical services already having been cut, and yet whilst that was proceeding, and central Government was being blamed, they were content to continue paying £65,000 per year on 3 toilets. What other costs are still being incurred, of this nature, which would save valuable money for the Council?