There's a big row going on at County Hall at the moment on the subject of public toilets. A report prepared for the Environment Scrutiny Committee is proposing the closure of up to 114 (out of 247) public conveniences across Cornwall. This story also has a Launceston connection as the town council is in discussions with County Hall about taking over a number of services including toilets.
The headline is this - Cornwall Council wants to save about £1.35 million from its budget for public toilets. The decision to make cuts was agreed by the Council back in November last year but the details of what services would be affected and by how much wasn't made clear. For this reason (and a few others) the Liberal Democrats voted unanimously against the budget but it was forced through by the Conservatives and Independents.
It is claimed that the closure of 114 toilets will save £1.1m per year - still more than £250,000 short of the target. The officers at today's committee are making a lot of the fact the public toilets are not a statutory service. However, as blogger Simon Reed has pointed out, neither is giving £50,000 to Plymouth for their World Cup bid, webcasting, the Stadium for Cornwall, the Leader's slush fund etc etc.
So the proposal is to close these toilets. If a town or parish council wants to take them on then they are free to do so, but they would have to pay all the costs themselves. It is also proposed that the remaining toilets (those currently safe from closure) could also be taken on by towns and parishes and there would be a grant available to pay for these running costs. This is where the council hopes to save the remaining £250,000 by paying the local councils less than it costs the unitary to provide the service.
The Launceston angle is this. On the closure list are the toilets in the Walkhouse car park. On the safe list are the toilets in Race Hill car park. But at the moment Launceston Town Council is negotiating to take over a range of services currently provided by Cornwall Council. I was told last night that this list includes both sets of public toilets. How can those negotiations proceed if someone else in Cornwall Council is proposing to close a service before it can be transferred. It seems that the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing.