Falkirk Community Trust accused of being too slow to reopen facilities

Falkirk Council’s chief executive says lessons must be learned about the length of time it has taken for the district’s public toilets and libraries to open since lockdown.

Councillors told officers that they had been frustrated at how little information they had been given when Community Trust-run facilities remained closed despite government guidelines allowing them to open.

The council’s chief executive, Kenneth Lawrie, admitted to members of Falkirk Council’s emergency executive that the problem was something “we need to get a grip of” as it may be something they will need to do again.

The Trust’s chief executive Maureen Campbell blamed the council for the delays.

Falkirk Library

She said they could not open any facilities until Falkirk Council – which owns the buildings – had carried out safety checks.

But this work was badly hampered by problems with water quality in some school buildings as traces of bacteria were discovered.

“That took up a really significant amount of resources, so that was a factor.” Mr Lawrie told councillors.

The leader of the council, Cecil Meiklejohn, said elected members had expected “more information and clarity” – and more dialogue with the Community Trust.

Councillors Fiona Collie and Adanna McCue wanted to know why Callendar Park facilities – including the kiosk and tearoom are still closed.

Mrs Campbell said they had been unable to open the kiosk but had brought in an ice cream van for visitors to the park.

She also said that Callendar House tea room was waiting for the House itself to open – with social distancing measures in place – and they hope to do so before the October school holiday.

Mrs Campbell also said they were struggling to get Community Trust staff to clean the toilets which is why these were only open at weekends.

Councillor Nigel Harris said that other organisations such as Scouts and churches would not have to wait for their landlord to carry out safety checks and many of these tasks could have been delegated if proper procedure were followed.

Mr Lawrie said: “I absolutely get the frustration and irritation of members on this and we do need to better next time, if there is a next time.

“If we do need to go through this thing again then we need to ensure these lessons have been learned.

“That could mean using resources in another way or bringing in others – we do need to be open to that,” he said.

Councillor Paul Garner said he did not think members were getting across how disappointed and frustrated they and their communities were.

However, acting director of development Douglas Duff said staff were “putting all the effort we can into getting these buildings reopened”.