Public Toilets - your questions answered
Why is Gwynedd Council considering closing some public toilets?
Gwynedd Council is responsible for 73 public toilets across the county and manages a Welsh Government scheme which enables the public to use 36 “Community toilet facilities” in cafes, businesses and pubs across the county.
The government’s policy of significantly reducing the amount it spends on public services means that the amount of funding Gwynedd Council receives directly from the government towards the cost of delivering local services is being cut by around £19 million between April 2014 and March 2018 alone.
At the same time, increasing local demand for essential services such as care and support for older people along with the cost of inflation means that Gwynedd Council needs an additional £29 million.
These two factors combined mean that Gwynedd Council has no option but to cut some services - including reducing the amount it spends on public toilets from £743,000 to £499,000 to bring about a saving of £244,000.
Shouldn’t public toilet closures only be considered as a last resort?
Absolutely. Gwynedd Council has made every possible effort to reduce the need for service cuts and will continuing to do so. These efforts include:
- Working more efficiently – £26 million of efficiency savings have already been approved or delivered;
- Generating income – increasing or introducing fees for some services to protect other more vital services;
- Increasing Council Tax – an increase of 3.97% was approved for 2016/17 and the Council’s financial strategy recommends a similar increase for 2017/18.
Unfortunately, even when all these steps have been taken, Gwynedd Council still faces afunding gap of almost £5 million up until March 2018 alone. To close this remaining gap, at a full Council meeting in March 2016, Councillors agreed that there was no option left but to implement 49 service cuts which included the public toilets service.
So the decision has been taken and toilets will close?
Not necessarily. From the beginning, Gwynedd Council has made it clear that its preferred option would always be to avoid toilet closures wherever possible. Since March, detailed work has been carried out to try to find possible alternative ways of delivering the required £244,000 saving from the public toilets budget.
What are these "possible alternative options"?
The possible alternative arrangements involve inviting Gwynedd’s community, town and city councils to contribute towards the cost of maintaining public toilets with the option of taking responsibility for facilities in their area in the future.
This option offers:
- the possibility of keeping open toilets that would otherwise have to closed;
- the opportunity for communities to develop alternative long-term arrangements that meet their local needs;
- opportunities for partners to attract grant funding, which isn’t available to Gwynedd Council, to improve or adapt local toilet facilities in their area.
No decision will be taken regarding the future of individual toilet facilities until discussions with potential local partners have been completed.
Why doesn't the Council leave toilets as they are and cut something else?
During the autumn of 2015, Gwynedd Council carried out a comprehensive public consultation exercise in which local people had the opportunity to have their say on 118 possible service cut options. This included an option to close 50 out of a total of 73 public toilets to achieve a reduction of £244,000 from the £743,000 annual service budget.
Over 2,100 Gwynedd residents and organisations took the opportunity to have their say on the cut proposals.
23% of the respondents to the public consultation identified public toilets as a service that should be protected from being cut.
Following the public consultation process, all the feedback received was carefully considered by all members of Gwynedd Council. Then on 3 March, at a Gwynedd Council meeting, a finalised list of 49 cuts was agreed, which included the proposal to cut public toilets.
So the final decision has been made to close public toilets in Gwynedd?
No. As explained above, it is hoped that public toilet closures can be avoided by working with local town and community councils.
What happens next?
The Council has written to community councils to find out which ones would be interested in entering into a partnership with Gwynedd Council to keep the facilities open in their areas.
The letters ask the relevant community councils if they are in a position to make a financial contribution towards keeping the toilets open for next year (2017/18) and with the option, in the longer term, to explore the possibility of extending the partnership agreement and even to transfer responsibility for the public toilets to the local community.