Cabinet Member: Councillor Dafydd Meurig
To consider the report and make recommendations on a Scheme to keep public toilets, which are under threat of closure due to the cuts, open for the future
a) Submitted - the report of the Cabinet Member for the Environment recommending a scheme to seek to keep those public toilets that are under threat of closure, open and operational into the future. Reference was made to the Gwynedd Challenge exercise where the Council, at its meeting on 3 March 2016, recommended making cuts including 'closing 50 out of 73 public toilets in the County" and cut £244,000 from the budget for the service. It was explained that the intention of this alternative scheme was to meet the cut by attempting to maintain the existing provision of public toilets in the County.
The Cabinet Member made a request for the Committee to consider the scheme and refer its recommendation to the Cabinet. It was explained that the Scheme depended on obtaining interest amongst Community and Town Councils in order to ensure the continuation of the provision, by contributing financially towards the scheme. Attention was drawn to the two options:
· Option 1 - contribution level of £4000 for each toilet that is open throughout the year and a contribution of £2000 for each toilet that is open seasonally.
· Option 2 - a contribution equal to a third (33.3%) of the average annual cost of operating the toilet
It was noted that the scheme was a means of maintaining the provision and unless the scheme would be approved, there would be a need to assess the local need.
b) During the discussion, the following observations were noted against the recommendation:
· The scheme had not been sufficiently scrutinised.
· A White Paper from the National Health Service (NHS) noting that the patient experience needed to be improved by 'listening and learning' and for organisations to develop clear strategies to address this - closing public toilets was contrary to this.
· Insufficient consideration had been given to vulnerable residents and residents with health conditions.
· It must be ensured that plenty of public toilets were available - Gwynedd was an area that depended on tourism, therefore, high quality public toilets were needed.
· A petition against the decision to close the toilets was gathering momentum with over 2000 names on it - there was no sufficient reason to close the public toilets
c) In response to the observations, Members were reminded that a cut to the service had already been agreed in the Full Council in March 2016, therefore, there was a need to consider a way to move forward. The Cabinet Member accepted the comment that the subject was one that highlighted concerns amongst communities. He also noted that he completely sympathised with residents with health conditions and that he would give full consideration to this. It was reiterated that the toilets would remain open until consultation would have taken place with the relevant communities.
ch) In response, the following observations were noted in support to the recommendation:
· To accept the report and congratulate the department for considering an alternative plan for public toilets in a positive way. Reference was made to good examples throughout the County where toilets were already being managed by Community Councils.
· To welcome the report. A good opportunity to establish a community partnership - this was the way forward. A good opportunity to collaborate.
· For those who were vulnerable or had a health condition, it was suggested that they arranged their journey ahead and that there was excellent information about the county's public toilets on the Council's website.
· Some Community Councils had already held discussions locally on the matter.
· A request was made for additional information on the income of toilets and the contribution of the Trunk Road Agencies.
· A suggestion to charge a fee in those toilets that were expensive to maintain.
d) In response to a question regarding inconsistencies in the use of toilets and the additional workload facing the Community Councils, it was highlighted that grants were available for Community Councils to apply for and that Officers from the Economy Department were available to offer information on these grants. It was noted that the transfer process could take up to 3 years to realise.
dd) In response to a question regarding the community toilets grants, it was noted that the grants available were continuing - Head of Department to report individually to Councillor L Morgan.
It was proposed and seconded to support option 1.
RESOLVED to accept the recommendation noted in 3.1 of the report with the Committee supporting option 1 - contribution level of £4000 for each toilet that is open throughout the year and a contribution of £2000 for each toilet that is open seasonally.
The Department was encouraged to;
- look further into opportunities to charge a fee at the most expensive toilets (and advise Community and Town Councils on how to do this)
- look into the possibility of further extending the Welsh Government Grant Scheme for Public Toilets