Monday, 7 November 2011

Lib Dems welcome Conservative u-turn on toilet closures

It seems that the Conservative-led Cornwall Council cabinet is having another think about the proposal to close up to 114 public toilets across Cornwall. As Liberal Democrats we have welcomed this u-turn.

The budget cut behind this was a part of the proposals voted through against Liberal Democrat opposition last November. It sought a £1.5 million cut in that particular service area. A few weeks ago a scrutiny committee worked out the implications of that cut and listed 114 public toilets that could be closed.

I think that two thoughts have forced the Tories to think again. The first is that the Council is, quite rightly, very proud of Cornwall's standing in the tourism sector. Last week we won the award, yet again, as the best venue in the UK. Just how long could Cornwall retain its reputation as a tourism venue if half the public toilets are closed?

The second factor is that very few town and parish councils have yet shown an inclination to take on these services unless there is a grant attached. It is all very well Cornwall Council seeking to freeze council tax bills, but most residents will actually see a rise if their town or parish is forced to take on the services that Cornwall Council is abandoning. Even if a small grant is given, the devolution process can only work at a certain rate and so the prospect of boarded up toilets across Cornwall is very real unless the council has a rethink.

Liberal Democrats have been vociferous in our opposition to these planned closures and have highlighted the likely damage to our tourism industry that would result. We hope that the Cabinet will issue a formal statement setting out their position as soon as possible.

The photo above shows my colleagues Adam Paynter and Sasha Gillard-Loft with local shopkeeper Mike Bluett campaigning against the proposal to close the Walk House toilets in Launceston.

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