Is it true that the recent decision to close the toilets was made at an away day and no minutes or video are available? Surely a decision as important as this needs consultation and correct debate in a public forum? Was correct process followed?
With an expected £3.8 million shortfall in our budget for 2024/25, work is underway to find the necessary savings to balance the books. Whilst we are confident that a lot of the savings can be made by working more efficiently, increasing our income, and sharing services, we know that there will be some difficult decisions about what services we can continue to provide.
We must maintain our statutory services, such as waste and street cleansing, temporary housing provision and environmental health, that represent a significant proportion of the Council’s budget, and this leaves less available to spend on discretionary service areas.
The Councils approach to operating discretionary services is set out in the Protecting Discretionary Services Policy which was agreed by Full Council on 6th July 2021, and states that if we are unable to devolve the toilets to town and parish councils or community schemes, we will need to end or reduce the service. So, the correct process has been followed and following discussions at a Cabinet Away Day on 13th September 2023, and further clarified at the subsequent meeting on Monday 25th September, the trial closure was put into action.
The trial reduction in the number of toilets being serviced is based on an operational decision that considers costs, the current cleaning contract, and the urgent requirement to procure a new contract that is flexible whilst providing an affordable and effective service.
The situation regarding the trial closure of toilets will be included as part of the budget consultation due to be issued during November 2023.
It is with much regret that we have had to make this decision, but it will be one of many that we need to take over the coming months to help put the budget on a more sustainable footing.