Public toilet charges proposed for Sunderland as cash-strapped council plans pay-to-pee scheme

Public toilets at Marine Walk, Roker Beach
Public toilets at Marine Walk, Roker Beach
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Sunderland residents could be forced to pay to pee as part of new budget proposals by a cash-strapped Sunderland City Council.

Proposed public toliets charges aim to save the council £155,000  and form part of wider plans to claw back cash as it faces a £12million cut in service spending next year.

As part of the draft 2019/20 revenue budget, there could also be around 60 redundancies.

Other proposals include a review of charges for bulky waste collection, which could draft in an extra £15,000.

City leaders are set to discuss the proposals next week alongside plans for £126million in capital spending for the next four years to 2022/23.

The new projects – in addition to £345million of existing investment plans – include the £41million to replace the Civic Centre and a £21million update of Sunderland Museum, Winter Gardens and the Central Library.

Cabinet Secretary, Coun Paul Stewart, said: “We have to keep investing in our city to grow its economy, promote better and healthier living, build more resilient communities, make us a more attractive city for residents and visitors, and protect the vulnerable.

“The council has to invest in the facilities that provide services. This means new buildings, new equipment, new plant and machinery.

“We also need to invest in the infrastructure that our city and neighbourhoods need.

“The £126m of new capital spending proposals are all about renewing what we have and investing in our future.

“In the last nine years, the council has needed to save £290million as a result of government funding cuts and unfunded spending pressures.

“A position forced on this council by conservative and liberal controlled governments, and this has put all of our services under extreme pressure.”

Since March 2010, the number of employees at Sunderland CIty Council has more than halved – from 7,719 in March 2010 to 2,814 in October 31 this year.

Service changes aim to help the council tackle a funding gap of around £50million for its revenue budget over the next three years.

Other budget plans include raising council tax by 3.99% from next year in line with Government limits on council tax and social care levy increases.

And reviews of children’s services, such as increasing the range of specialist care available within Sunderland for looked after children, could see £5million cut.

Coun Stewart added: “This a council continuing to work on behalf of everyone and making sure bins are emptied, streets cleaned, and that our parks and play spaces are available for everyone to enjoy.

“We are working to keep streets safe, our children are looked after, that our adult social care services continue to deliver what people need at the time they need support, and that our safeguarding of young and old is robust.

“Yet, we have to make more and more difficult savings proposals and in the New Year there will be difficult decisions for the next budget.”

Sunderland City Council’s cabinet will meet on Wednesday, November 21 at Sunderland Civic Centre in committee room one – the meeting will start at 2pm.

Subject to cabinet, consultation will get underway with firmer proposals being made in the new year, with the final budget decided in March 2019.

Proposals are all subject to further details on the government’s financial settlement, which is due in December.

Proposed revenue cuts for 2019/20 currently total £10.166million.

(The remaining gap after additional budget cuts includes £1.834million).

Proposed capital  investments over the next four years include: 

* £21m update of Sunderland Museum, Winter Gardens and the Central Library

* £41m on replacing the Civic Centre

* £2m at the Port of Sunderland

* £4.9m relocating and expanding Willow Fields Primary School

* £11m on highways works

* £3.5m investment in Roker Park

* £3.9m on vehicles, plant and equipment

* £3m on redevelopment of the Parsons and Jack Crawford depots, including electric vehicle infrastructure

* £4m on bridge maintenance

* £0.75m Hillthorn lorry park

* £1m on re-building Panns East Quay

* £0.4m riverside investment

* £4.5m day centre updates

* £5.5m empty homes and neighbourhood renewal

* £2.3m homeless accommodation

* £0.080m improving children’s homes.

Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service