An 'ill-conceived' attempt to use council reserves to make more Manchester city centre toilets available on a 24-hour basis has been dismissed.
Councillor John Leech, leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition at the town hall, had sought to draw £600k over three years to at least double around-the-clock toilet provision in the city centre.
He said that this would reduce the impact on homeless people of a public space protection order which prevents public urination and defecation in a public place other than a toilet.
There are plans to spend £155k making the toilets on Lloyd Street available on a 24-hour basis- but Coun Leech argued that council bosses could go further.
Introducing his amendment to the 2020/21 budget at a meeting on Monday, he said: “Over the last 20 years we have seen a reduction in toilet provision for the general public.
“I think we should all thank private businesses and organisations that have actually opened up toilet provision during the day to the general public.
“But that does not provide 24-hour toilet provision. We absolutely support the decision to extend the provision of toilets in the town hall to 24 hours but we just simply dont think that's enough given the rapidly expanding size of the city centre.”
The meeting heard that the cost of Coun Leech’s proposal was based on estimations he received from the city treasurer, Carol Culley.
But the amendment was described as ‘really, really disappointing’ by the chair of the resources and governance scrutiny committee, Councillor Sarah Russell, who accused the Lib Dem leader of ‘quoting the treasurer in an abstract way’.
In January the committee had asked officers to look into opening more public toilets in the city centre but have yet to hear back.
Coun Russell said: “There is a mechanism for us as a committee to ask for reports, which we’ve done so we can get properly informed information from officers who aren’t then put on the spot in the middle of a relatively politicised meeting.”
The committee chair added that using reserves on day-to-day expenditure, rather than unexpected events, was one of the main reasons for Northamptonshire council’s financial collapse.
But Coun Leech said the city treasurer would have advised him if his proposals would 'put our general reserves into jeopardy'.
He told the committee: “I appear to have a lot more faith in the calculations by the city treasurer than members of this committee perhaps do.
"It appears as though members are scrabbling for reasons to not support this amendment rather than taking it at face value."
The leader of the council, Councillor Richard Leese, suggested that the amendment effectively perpetuated homelessness instead of spending money helping people off the streets.
He also argued that the proposals would cost ‘significantly more’ than the estimates given by Coun Leech, which proposed spending over a three-year period when governement funding uncertainty means the council is only able to set a one-year budget.
“If you're going to look at this sensibly you do a comprehensive review, you don't do something from the back of an envelope,” said Coun Leese.
"The amendment is ill-conceived and badly prepared."