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Health secretary Jeremy Hunt in row over £44k bathroom to let him "freshen up" after bike commute

Conservative politician insists all bike commuters to Department of Health's Victoria HQ can use plush facility...

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt is at the centre of a row over a £44,000 shower room and toilet in the Department of Health’s new headquarters, which The Sun claims is for his personal use but the politician insists is available to any member of staff who cycles to the office in Victoria.

According to the newspaper, the 15 foot by 8 foot bathroom suite adjacent to Hunt’s office on the top floor of the building, which is located at 39 Victoria Street, includes floor-to-ceiling tiling, sensor-activated lighting and a power shower.

It added that there are already shower facilities by the bike racks in the £25 million building’s basement, but said Hunt wanted his own private space where he could “freshen up” after his commute by bicycle.

The Sun quoted a ‘whistleblower’ within the ministry as saying: “It’s a disgrace that Hunt talks about the need to save money while getting the taxpayer to pay for a private bathroom fit for a king.

“People across Britain are waiting on trolleys at hospitals because there are no beds and waiting lists are getting longer by the day.

“But that’s OK so long as Jeremy doesn’t have to queue for the bathroom.

“How can he justify it while telling everyone else in the NHS to tighten their belts?”

The row comes at a time when Hunt has ordered the NHS to make savings totalling £22 billion.

But the Conservative minister, who is Member of Parliament for South West Surrey, insisted on Twitter that anyone who rode into work at the ministry was entitled to use the bathroom, adding that he wanted to encourage people to commute by bike.

Many Twitter users replied by pointing out – as The Sun had done – what else £44,000 could fund within the NHS.

Others tweeted pictures of the facilities that staff in NHS hospitals are expected to use.

In a statement, the Department of Health said: “The Health Secretary has not approved any costs relating to the department’s new building, but has requested facilities for all cyclists and runners in line with those the department currently has.”

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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