Rother budget shortfall leads to trial closure of toilets

A NUMBER of public toilets in Battle, Bexhill, Pett Level, Sedlescombe and Rye will be closed on a trial basis over the winter months to help save Rother District Council thousands of pounds.

Council bosses have made the decision as the authority faces a £3.8 million pound shortfall in its budget for 2024/25.

Over the last eighteen months, the council has been in negotiations to see if the provision of public toilets could be devolved to town or parish councils. Whilst there have been some very positive discussions, no firm decisions have been made.

Council chiefs say they now have no other option but to bring in the trial closures which will come into force on November 13, 2023.

Council Leader, Doug Oliver, said: “We know this decision will be unpopular, but we have to face up to the stark reality of the situation. After years of reductions in central Government funding, rising costs and inflation, we are now looking at a £3.8m shortfall in our budget next year.

“We don’t want to close our toilets, but this is the first of many tough decisions we will have to make over the coming months in order to protect our statutory services such as waste collection and support for the homeless and vulnerable.”

Councillor Oliver said that toilet facilities are aging, some buildings are no longer fit for purpose, and some have been the target of vandals, which are often costly to repair.

“Contractor costs, the price of equipment and materials, and the cost of replacing damaged or worn-out items continue to increase,” said Cllr Oliver. “We currently have more public toilets than many authorities in the south, and unlike many other councils, we’ve been able to keep them open. However, our annual budget to provide them is now over £300,000 per year, and we can no longer maintain the service in its present form.

“By closing 12 toilets across the district on a trial basis, we can focus on providing an improved service in the remaining toilets in Battle, Bexhill, and Rye, as well as Camber Sands.

“We remain very much open to any firm proposals from town or parish councils, or local organisations to take over the provision of these toilets or offer alternative community schemes.”

In Bexhill, seven toilets will close leaving five open, in Battle one will close, and one will remain open, and in Rye two will close leaving two open. Both toilets at Pett Level and at Sedlescombe will close and some other toilets will change schedules or close as usual during the winter months.

Update 17/10/2023: A full list of public toilets affected by the trial closure (from 13th November 2023) has now been published. Please visit the Public toilets to close on a trial basis over the winter months webpage for more information.

Published: 13th October 2023

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