Thursday, 5 December 2013

Save Hay's Toilets!

At the Council meeting on Monday evening, there was some discussion about the recent decision by the County Council to close all the public toilets in Powys (or nearly all of them). They had managed to buy some time by suggesting to the County Council that the Town Council might be willing to take over the running of the toilets, but they have nothing like enough money in their budget to take it on.

Just a little while ago, there was a big public meeting in Glasbury, where they have a toilet block which is on a layby where people park to go walking or canoeing. The meeting had a turnout of around 200 - and Glasbury is a lot smaller than Hay. There was 100% support for keeping the toilets open, and 100% support for increasing the council tax in the village to pay for it, even though the amount they pay locally would have to go up from around £7 to around £27. They are also willing to provide volunteers to clean the toilets.

One of the problems with the funding is that the County Council have only supplied approximate figures for the costs of running the toilets - they must know what it costs exactly, since they are running them, and have been for years, but they're not giving out accurate figures.
The Chief Executive of the County Council is coming to Hay to meet with the Town Council next week. One of the things he's going to be asked is whether he will allow a levy to be added to the car park charges which would be used to fund the toilets - at least the toilets by the car park - but it seems he will be unlikely to agree to this. The County Council are offering a grant of £6,500, but this is only part of the total cost.
Another suggestion was to start charging for the use of the toilets, but in other places the money collected has only really covered the cost of the person collecting it, and there hasn't been enough left over for maintenance - and there have also been problems with vandalism where people have forced their way into the toilets without paying. Which costs more money to fix.
The National Park authority hasn't been consulted, and they are concerned about the effect on visitor numbers, but have been so far reluctant to get involved. And the toilets are running out of time. They will be locked up for good on 1st January unless something can be sorted out before then.
One of the ways to challenge the decision to close the toilets is by going down the equality route - lack of toilets will adversely affect vulnerable groups such as the elderly and disabled - and this could be the basis of a legal challenge against the County Council.
The Town Council are going to have an emergency meeting on Monday evening to discuss what they can do.

So there is going to be a public meeting, at 7pm at the Parish Hall on Thursday 12th December. Barry Thomas from the County Council has already said he will not attend a public meeting (though it's the same day he's meeting the Town Council), but other county councillors will be invited, and so will Roger Williams, MP and Kirsty Williams AM. John Evans of the Chamber of Commerce has offered to chair the meeting, as it's a subject of great importance to local businesses, but it may be Gareth Ratcliffe or one of the Town Councillors instead.

There is also a petition hosted by 38 Degrees, set up by Ellie Spencer. I know it's a long url, but here it is:

As of Thursday evening at 8pm, the petition has 456 signatures, and needs a minimum of 500.

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