Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Council considers closing or charging for public loos

Cornwall Council is considering closing, abandoning or charging for public conveniences in efforts to save money.

In a letter sent to town and parish councils, Cornwall Council says:

"The provision of public conveniences... is not something that Cornwall Council has a statutory requirement to do. The challenge is to make £1m of public convenience service efficiencies within the next 4 years."

The letter goes on to suggest ways in which this saving could be made:

"- reducing the opening times to fit more closely with peak demand;
- introducing more efficient water and electricity management;
- devolving local public convenience management to parish councils;
- putting a charge in place;
- closing some public conveniences where there is a strong rationale to do so"

The option of more efficient water and electricity management is a sensible one in my opinion, but is hardly likely to save £1 million. So it will come down to introducing charges, closing or restricting the opening hours of public toilets or handing them over to town or parish councils.

The letter goes on to say:

"Would your (town or parish) Council, for instance, be willing to take on the responsibility for the management of some, or all, of the public conveniences in your parish under the Active Partnering scheme? Or to own and maintain conveniences that would otherwise be earmarked for closure? Your view on this might be dependant (sic) on whether Cornwall Council could ensure that they were brought up to a good standard of repair initially. Alternatively there could be local community organisations that you know which would be willing to take them on?"

So the message seems to be that Cornwall Council is prepared to close some public toilets and the only way they can be saved is if town and parish councils (which have already set their budgets for next year) are prepared to pay for and manage them.

The phrase active partnering refers to town and parish councils managing facilities on behalf of Cornwall Council and being paid to do so - although the fact that the Council seems prepared to close some facilities indicates that the opportunities for this may be very limited.

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