A report by the Deputy Chief Executive for Delivery.
The Deputy Chief Executive for Delivery presented the report confirming it set out to accept a government grant of £210k to support the introduction of 4 new Changing Places Toilets within the Town Centre. Each toilet costs around £75k to install with the total cost of the 4 toilets collectively being approximately £300k. The report also sought the approval of a capital contribution of £70k from our reserves to part fund the installation of 3 toilets under the Council’s control. The fourth toilet would be installed within the Blenkin Memorial Hall and the additional £20k would be met from the St Botolph’s Church Funds.
Changing Places toilets provided enhanced toilet facilities, more accessible by severely disabled people who required additional support. As such they were larger and more sophisticated facilities, requiring higher levels of technical enhancements and support. As part of its commitment towards improving the quality of life for everyone, the Government announced last Spring that it would be making £30m of funding available for the installation of new facilities to enable local authorities to bid on a competitive basis. Bids would assessed on the quality of the submissions, the amount of match funding, partnership working and the end destinations.
Following a consultation exercise with key members and stakeholders, including Parish Councils, Boston bid for funding to support the installation of 5 changing places toilets in and around the Town Centre in late Summer.
The sites that were bid for were Central Park, Wide Bargate, Lincoln Lane and the Blenkin Memorial Hall. The site at Boston College had been deemed not to meet the criteria by being classed as a new build and as such, not eligible. The funding applications had been heavily oversubscribed and in March 2022 the Government announced that Boston would receive £210k of funding to support the installation of 4 toilets. That compared to a total of £660k for the provision of 15 toilets within the South East Lincolnshire partnership and £920k for the whole of Lincolnshire for the provision of 23 toilets.
Concluding the Deputy Chief Executive stated he felt it was a good news story for the town and confirmed that within the wider scrutiny process the report had been firmly supported by the Executive Board.
Committee deliberation and questioning followed which included:
Members voiced concerns as to who would be responsible for maintenance costs and how much they would increase the current maintenance costs provided by BTAC (Boston Town Area Committee). Concerns noted the probability of damage to the very expensive facilities (with Boston having a history of vandalism at a number of its sites over the years with some residents being intent on damaging and vandalising everything the Council did with numerous incidents as evidence) resulting in high costs to replace the high quality facilities, with the responsibility of such repairs falling onto the council tax payers within the town (BTAC residents).
The Deputy Chief Executive advised he could not quantify any costs at that point but felt most costs would be absorbed within existing budgets with the majority covering consumables like toilet rolls and soaps along with annual inspection costs and staffing costs.
Further concerns were tabled at the high cost of each unit questioning the actual need for four pods within the town, with members stating one or two would be suffice as they expected volume of visitors would take time to establish and build. Should the town benefit greatly in a few years from such a large increase in disabled visitors, then a third pod could be looked at, at that point. Furthermore, members questioned the lack of increase in standard toilets for the public and market traders with the suggestion of the Council buying back the Fish Hill site.
The Deputy Chief Executive advised that it would be possible to submit a change request form to the Government should members so wish, however the funding would be reduced proportionately. He stressed the potential of the new pods to significantly increase tourism and improve the visitor economy to the town and noted in response that the costs were not envisaged to increase at that time with the tendering exercise still underway. Referencing the closed Fish Hill facility, members were advised that a number of approaches had been made with the owner to engage with the Council, but no approach had been accepted.
A number of members voiced strong concerns in respect of the security of the pods in keeping them vandalism free, referencing previous security schemes for facilities for the disabled with security by the use of a radar key which had failed and sites had been regularly vandalised. The radar keys were easily accessible on the web site and had not stopped sites being ransacked and vandalised. The secondary measure of having an access number to key in alongside the key, provided a little reassurance but members still questioned how secure the pods would be without strict procedures on the provision of both the key and key code numbers.
Overall members recognised the significance of the opportunity for Boston Borough Council which could result in the town being a 1st class reputable visitor town for the severely disabled, with the costs being so high due to the produce being so good. Some members noted that it would be wrong to delay securing the funding as other partnership would be looking to do likewise and Boston needed to be competitive.
That the Environment and Performance Committee recommend that Cabinet agree the following recommendations:
1. To approve an addition of £300k to the Capital programme to support the installation of 4 new changing places toilets. £230k of this will be met from government grants and external funding so a use of reserves of £70k is requested.
To agree the installation of 4 new toilets within the Town, 3 of which will be under the control of the Council.