Recommendations to Close Public Toilets Passed

As I wrote yesterday today was the debate on the recommendations by a working group for the E and E Scrutiny Committee on large scale cuts to funding for public toilets. Put in simple terms funding will be cut to 114 toilets. It does not say they will close, but this is just a clever play on words because without funding these toilets will close.

The town and parish councils are being offered these ‘surplus’ toilets, but many will see this as more of forcing the town and parish councils to take them on. As if they don’t, they will close. It hardly what you call a level playing field.

During the meeting to discuss the proposals many Councillors found the recommendations unacceptable with many, including me, felt Cornwall Council had a moral duty to provide this service. I have said before it is not just the resident who use these facilities, but the many visitors to Cornwall.

For Porthleven which I represent the plan was to close one of the two toilets. It has been decided that this small toilet is surplus, and therefore it can be closed. Closing this facility will save Cornwall Council a trifle £5k out of the proposed £1.1 million.

I feel, and know doubt many others will agree closing this toilet is pettiness of the highest order. It will probably cost more in boarding up and checking this toilet each year than the proposed saving of £5k. Even closed you would still have to fully pay or at least part pay the business rates on the building.

So in real terms I believe the savings in closing this toilet in Porthleven will be pence, or a few pounds. The real loss will be the reputation to Porthleven and the impact to the economy from tourism. People will not understand when see a toilet boarded up. The appearance of any boarded up building in a town looks bad.

Getting back to the meeting a vote was taken after a few hours debate. The vote to accept the recommendations from the working group was carried 8 votes for, 5 against. This report will now go in front of Cabinet who will make the final decision. For once, I hope the Cabinet rejects this report, but I don’t see how they will when the savings of £1.1m will still have to be made.

For me, I don’t plan to take this laying down. I will be speaking to the Town Council, businesses and the public seeking their views. I will also be officially launching a petition via Cornwall Council’s own petition process to show the feeling on this subject.

For Porthleven, today’s recommendation is bad, but for Cornwall as a whole, it is a disaster.

Closing Public Toilets in Cornwall

Tomorrow, at the Economy and Environment Scrutiny meeting there is an agenda item that is going to cause quite a bit of a stir. This is the long awaited and feared report into the future of the Cornwall Council owned public toilets.

It should be said the working group set up by this committee has worked really hard to come up with something within the set budget. When you have to lose over £1.1 million from a budget there is going to be some tough choices.

However, the report makes for some unpleasant reading for many areas. This is because listed in the report are numerous toilets that are recommended for closure. Out of the current 248 council owned toilets 114 are set to close.

Porthleven which has two toilets will lose one. In the report the recommendation is for the toilet near the Institute (Harbour Rd) to close, saving just over £5k per year. The Shute Lane toilet has so far escaped closure.

I shall be attending tomorrow’s meeting to argue to the case for both toilets to remain open because of the high visitor numbers Porthleven attracts over the year, but for residents too. Also, the toilet near the Institute is right next to a popular beach. Any closure of either toilet will have a negative impact on Porthleven.

In Helston, Trengrouse Way and the Monument toilets are earmarked for closure. This will no doubt be met with fury in Helston. In fact, many areas in Cornwall will see less toilets open.

For any of the ear-marked toilets to remain open the town and parish council would have to take them over. This would result in a higher precept being set, but no reduction in the over all Cornwall Council council tax. In other words it could be seen as double taxation.

Public toilets and the ability to access them are an important provision. These are not only used by the residents of Cornwall, but the many million who visit Cornwall.

Lets hope there is a change of heart at tomorrows meeting and we can save most if not all of these toilets.

Porthleven Town Council and Public Toilets

The September meeting of Porthleven Town Council  meeting took place last night. One of the items on the agenda was the public toilets in Porthleven. As I have blogged before Cornwall Council wants to save a lot of money from this service; one way could be to hand these toilets to town and parish councils.

I explained that Porthleven Town Council could take on the toilets as either as a package of others services, or on their own, or ask for the status quo to continue. All of the options were debated, but it came down to why, and the extra costs the people would have to incurr on their precept if these facilities were transferred.

Cornwall Council kindly supplied more up to date figures concerning the running costs for the two toilets in Porthleven. The new revised figures came to nearly £15,000. This equates to 21% of the current precept of Porthleven.

It was commented that whilst Cornwall Council has no statutory duty to provide these facilities, it should because of its moral duty for the benefit of resident or visitor. After all, it is what is expected of the Local Authority. Another point was of double taxation in the case of extra town council precept by no reduction in the  Cornwall Council precept.

The extra administration costs were mentioned too. This extra burden on to the Clerk would add to the costs; as any work that needs to be carried out would require skilled tradesmen. Most town councils do not have fully employed maintenance staff, unlike Cornwall Council.

At the end of the debate about vote was taken, and the outcome of that was to request Cornwall Council to carry on providing these facilities. The question is, will Cornwall Council respect this view and continue to provide this facility, or just close the toilets down?

Time will tell I guess.

Carry on at your (public) convenience

Cornwall Council is trying to off-load the public toilet onto the town and parish council’s. Cornwall Council says it has no statutory duty to provide this service: which costs around £3m per year to run. The Council says it needs to save £1m from this budget. If Cornwall Council thinks by handing it over to the town and parish council’s this is the way to save this money, then it is missing the trick.

The official response ( I like to use spin) is it could be part of a package of devolution (click here).  However, you won’t get a reduction on council tax from Cornwall Council, but in fact you will pay more tax because the cost will just be passed onto the town and parish councils who will have to add-on extra to their precept.

Porthleven has two toilets and the cost of running these two toilets is as follows:

Shute Lane – £13,607 which includes water, business rates and electricity
Harbour Rd – £7,697 again includes the same costs as Shute Lane.

(These costs do not take into account any maintenance due to wear and tear, or worse, vandalism)

If Porthleven TC did take them over the budget required to run them as now equates to 31% of the town councils precept. This would mean the costs would have to be added to the precept, and worse, the extra to cover any maintenance/vandalism.

For smaller towns and parishes the cost of running toilets would be more than some precept for. What would happen if Cornwall Council said it would just close the toilets? Would a town or parish council then be forced into taking them over, and then be forced to add an extra tax?

Let’s hope it is just my suspicious nature and this will not happen…..

Spending a Penny – is this the end of the Public Toilet?

The public toilet is now under the spotlight. Cornwall Council is writing to all Town and Parish Council’s for their views on this facility. If you read between the lines this means we want you to take over the running as we need to save money, if you don’t we could close them or scale back their operation.

I saw this coming, in fact, I am surprised it has taken so long. The idea of transfering toilets had been mentioned just before the District Council’s (I am talking about Kerrier) came to a end. I was then a District Councillor for Kerrier and was offered the transfer of the two toilets in Porthleven to the Town Council, which I passed this offer on to the Town Council. It was met with a no, why should we, they are a financial liability. I guess this is the same argument that Cornwall Council is using to ‘rationalise’ this service.

No doubt Cornwall Council will say it is devolving services down to the Towns and Parish Council’s. But, would they also handover services that make money so easily? No doubt Porthleven Town Council will have something to say about this letter when they next meet in Feburary; so I cannot say if they would or would not be interested in taking over these toilets.

I do know that every time the public toilets are closed unexpectedly, or are not open when they are meant to be, I get complaints from the public and businesses who inturn are getting moaned at by residents and visitors. The businesses also complain that if no public toilets are open, then people feel they use theirs without being a customer.

So a simple question that would give me some idea as to how people feel before this is discussed by Porthleven TC is. Do the people of Porthleven think the Town Council should take over the running of the toilets, and if so, would they understand if the precept increased slightly to cover this cost? Of course no one likes paying more for something, but sometimes you have to, just to save something.

Answers on a postcard (or e-mail/ blog comment)

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