Toilet closure halted.

Councillors in Bath and North East Somerset have voted to call a halt to plans to close public toilets throughout the area.

At a Full Council meeting , councillors unanimously backed a Conservative proposal which puts the brakes on plans  to close up to 13 of its 27 public toilets.

The public toilets in Larkhall Square. One of those threatened with closure.

The public toilets in Larkhall Square. One of those threatened with closure.

The  proposal commits the authority to bringing forward revised proposals as part of next year’s Council budget which would keep open public toilets where no suitable nearby alternative provision can be found or alternative funding agreed.

The resolution passed by councillors also asks the authority to review plans for a new private maintenance contract to see if better value can be secured.

Conservatives have said they are delighted that they were able to force the authority’s ruling Liberal Democrat councillors to back down over their closure plans, describing the outcome as a ‘victory for local democracy’.

The vote took place after a petition organised by local residents gained over 2,500 signatures, thereby automatically triggering a debate on the issue at a Full Council meeting.

Conservative shadow Neighbourhoods spokesman, Cllr Geoff Ward, said:

“This is a fantastic result for local residents and we’re naturally delighted with the result.  It’s a real victory for local democracy, and particularly for all the local residents who have campaigned tirelessly on this issue and came along to speak at the Council meeting.

“We’re very pleased that people-power has forced the Council and the Lib Dems to listen to the genuine public concern surrounding their toilet closure plan.  There has been next to no public consultation and the whole thing has been mishandled from the start.

 

“What this means is that the Council is now committed to producing new proposals which keep our public toilets open unless suitable nearby alternatives can be found, or alternative funding arrangements agreed.

 

“Of course the Council faces financial challenges, but it has to deal with these in a fair and reasonable way.  With the Council poised to sign a multi-million pound contract to take over the running of its public toilets, it’s hard to believe that it cannot squeeze out a bit better value to keep more toilets open.  Hopefully, this is what the Council will now do.”

Nowhere to go!

Nowhere to go!

The future of public toilets in Larkhall and Weston village in Bath has apparently been thrown into further confusion by Bath and North East Council.

At a meeting of the authority’s Liberal Democrat Cabinet this week, in answer to a question from Conservative councillors, it was confirmed that the toilets in Weston would remain open ‘until a replacement has been agreed’, but that the Larkhall toilets were still earmarked for closure from next April.

The public toilets in Larkhall Square.

The public toilets in Larkhall Square.

Adding further to the uncertainty, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods did not confirm that the Weston toilets would stay open ‘permanently’ unless a suitable alternative is found.

The news has led to accusations of confusion and double-standards by the Liberal Democrat Cabinet, with Conservative councillors calling on the Council to clarify the future of the toilets for residents.

Councillor Geoff Ward, Conservative Shadow Neighbourhoods spokesman, said:

“This whole thing has been completely mishandled by B&NES right from the start.  First the toilets were going to be closed from 2014, then not until replacements were found, then the closures were brought forward to this August.  Now some will close in August, some in April, and some we simply don’t know the future of.  It’s a complete fiasco.

“It’s hard to understand why the Council can be definitive about the closure dates of some toilets but not others. This confusion is unfair on residents, who deserve to be given clarity over the future of their public amenities.” IMG_3569

Weston Councillor Colin Barrett (Cons) added: 

“We’ve now been told that the Weston toilet will remain open until a replacement has been agreed, but bizarrely the Council won’t use the word ‘permanently’.  At the same time, Larkhall’s toilets have been given a firm closure date of the 1st April.  So we don’t know what the Council will do if no alternative is found for Weston.  Will they remain open permanently or not?  The Council needs to end this uncertainty and be straight with residents.”

  • The question tabled by Cllr Geoff Ward and reply from Cllr David Dixon was as follows:Cllr Geoff Ward:

    Can the Cabinet Member please confirm that both the Larkhall and Weston public toilets will now remain open permanently, unless and until suitable alternatives have been found?  Was the new Public Health Unit consulted on their view on the health impacts and effects which might occur as a consequence of toilet closures, especially in respect to our elderly residents?

    Cllr David Dixon:

    The Weston toilets will remain open until an alternative has been agreed.  Officers are working on options with Ward Councillors.  The Larkhall toilets will remain open until 1st April 2014 whilst Ward Councillors and officers work through options for alternative provision.
    The Health & wellbeing Board was operating in shadow form at the time that the MTSRP proposals, including toilet closures, was published. All Council services and partners, including Public Health, were party to the draft proposals last year.
    An Equalities Impact Assessment (EIA) was done (now available to view on this public webpage –http://www.bathnes.gov.uk/services/your-council-and-democracy/equality-and-diversity/equality-impact-assessments/financial-pla) and formed part of the initial consultation with PDS panels in late 2012 on the savings proposals for the MTSRP.  An overarching Equalities Impact report (which considered public health impacts) was compiled, related to the impact of all service savings proposals, during the MTSRP public consultation period, and including the Resources PDS panel, Cabinet and Council meetings in February 2013.

 

At your convenience?

At your convenience?

The closure of public toilets in Weston, Larkhall, Combe Down, Twerton and Peasedown St John are to be brought forward to this August, according to an announcement from Bath and North East Somerset Council.

The news has sparked anger from Conservative councillors, who have accused the Liberal Democrat-run authority of going back on a promise to keep the toilets open until next year whilst alternative provision is sought.

Not everyone is too happy about this closure notice outside the Larkhall loos!

Not everyone is too happy about this closure notice outside the Larkhall loos!

The Council has notified local councillors that notices will be put up on the toilets B&NES plans to close thirteen of its public toilets in total.  However, the closures were not expected to begin until 2014, which is when the savings anticipated from the closures were programmed to materialise in the Council budget.

Larkhall's  public conveniences

Larkhall’s public conveniences

Whatever the justification behind the closures, l find the whole business rather ironic – coming as it does from an Authority destined to see a rise in the number of people who might be said to benefit most from such public provision.

The Office for National Statistics forecasts a 37 per cent rise in the number of over-65s from 31,600 to 43,200 by the end of the next decade. While a 67 per cent hike in the number of over-85s – from 4,900 to 8,200 – is expected during the same period.

Lord Filkin, chairman of the House of Lords Committee on Public Service and Demographic Change was quoted as saying: ‘As a country we are not ready for the rapid ageing of our population.”

Meanwhile, a government spokesman was also quoted as saying: ‘ It is essential that we reform our public services so they can cater for changing demand and are sustainable in the longer term.’

Try telling that to an elderly person searching for a loo! Our Victorian forefathers were so proud of their municipal services including such ‘mod cons’ as public toilets. We squander our heritage for short-term convenience.

One of Larkhall's local cafes.

One of Larkhall’s local cafes.

P>S> I suppose Larkhall’s cafes will benefit from the closure of the local loos. Tea and pee l think they call it?!

P>P>S>  Ironic that the district has just got a library. That which the Lord giveth…. etc, etc.IMG_3573