Cornwall Council 'didn't know' it owned a toilet block in Newquay
CORNWALL Council has been branded a "joke" after it emerged the authority was not aware it owned a public toilet block in Newquay.
Bosses have always claimed the freehold on facilities at Chester Road was held by a nearby bank.
This meant ownership could not be passed on to the town council, as it was with ten other lavatory blocks owned by the unitary authority earlier this year.
However, it emerged at a Newquay Town Council meeting on Wednesday that Cornwall Council did own the toilets, and could have passed them on.
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Town councillors agreed in March to dip into its emergency reserves to fund the running of the toilets, deemed vital in a tourist town.
Cash-strapped Cornwall Council, which has historically run public lavatories, had threatened to close and sell the majority.
Councillor Kevin Towill told the meeting: "Cornwall Council has been questioning if we are capable of looking after our own assets when it's not even aware of what assets it owns in Newquay.
"It's a joke."
Andy Hannan, chairman of the economic development and general purposes (EDGP) committee, which is overseeing the transfer of toilets, said: "This is another classic example of localism and what localism should mean.
"Once again Cornwall Council are completely unaware of what they own and what they're going to do with what they own.
"This would have saved us a lot of time if we had known this was freehold."
Councillor Joanna Kenny said: "Cornwall Council were very convinced. I'm gobsmacked."
The town council will now look into taking on the extra toilet block – something that Cornwall Council has said it is happy to support.
A spokeswoman said: "We acknowledge that the original advice provided was incorrect and apologise.
"From our original audit of all public toilets in Cornwall, Chester Road was listed as a leasehold facility. However, on carrying out further investigation, we have identified that the council owns the freehold to the property.
"We would be happy to transfer the toilets to Newquay Town Council if this is their wish."
Townsfolk are to be asked later whether they would accept a hike in council tax to ensure the toilets remain open, at an estimated cost of up to £250,000 a year.
Other funding mechanisms have been suggested, including a community toilet scheme that would see businesses such as pubs and cafés open their toilets to the public in return for a subsidy.
Cornwall Council remains responsible for toilets at Newquay Harbour and Little Fistral. The block at Beach Road, one of ten taken over by the town council, has been closed for "cost" reasons.
Premises which open their toilet facilities to the public could be issued with a special sign by Cornwall Council. See page 16.