Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Council set to withdraw cash for regatta toilets

PUBLIC funding for the toilets at Henley Royal Regatta could be withdrawn after this year’s event.

Wokingham Borough Council is considering ending an agreement to pay more than £2,500 per year for the toilet blocks on two sites along the regatta towpath during the five-day event.

The council has made contributions towards the toilets for more than 20 years with the rest of the money coming from the regatta and the Copas Partnership, which owns the land.

The council is under pressure to save about £20million by 2020 due to government funding cuts.

Earlier this year, it suggested that it could withdraw funding as the regatta is a private event held on land not owned by the council.

But it has now agreed to contribute as normal this year and form a policy group to decide what to do in future years.

Councillor Angus Ross, executive member for environment, said: “We’re working extremely hard to balance spending across the borough, which means taking difficult decisions, especially when striking a balance between supporting events like these and caring for children and vulnerable adults.

“While we realise this is a significant event with many visitors, we don’t support similar events in this way anywhere else in the borough, so expect organisers to come up with their own plans to run an event.

“We’re going to continue the current arrangement of providing toilets for now, while a wider and clearer policy is developed.

“But we must make it clear, as a matter of principle, that we don't believe council taxpayers should finance amenities at privately organised events.”

John Halsall, borough councillor for Wargrave, Remenham and Ruscombe, will sit on the new policy group.

He said: “I’m delighted that my authority has seen sense and I hope I can play a part in developing a policy that will provide public amenities for the future.

“I think it’s important. Henley Royal Regatta is the second-biggest public event in the South-East, after Notting Hill Carnival, and no other authority will provide public facilities other than Wokingham Borough Council.”

Copas declined to comment.

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