Letter: Richard Bird October 24, 2017
I am responding to the request for information by Trevor Bell about public toilets (Lynn News, October 17).
The borough council continues to try to find ways of making up the deficit created by central government’s squeeze on all local councils. Over the next few years the Government grant will be reduced to zero and the borough has to either save, cut back or abandon various services. Occasionally there will be ways to make a profit from its services, however that’s a different discussion and debate altogether.
Public toilets are not a mandatory service and the law of the land says that West Norfolk Council has no responsibility to provide them. All across the country public toilets are being closed and/or sold off. However the law does state that toilets cannot be converted into a chargeable facility
(turnstile or other) by an authority and only when they are sold off or gifted to another body can charges be made for their usage.
So West Norfolk Council decided to review its facilities with a view to reducing its financial commitment, currently we, the ratepayers, locally pay out £374,000 per year in maintenance, cleaning and
staffing for the 22 blocks of public toilets here. Initially the borough council decided that where tourism was paramount or where there was an income from car parks the service would be maintained.
That left locally, amongst others, Heacham, Old Hunstanton and Holme up for consideration.
There were more in Downham and Lynn but that’s outside my area of responsibility and others are fighting their cause.
So, I would argue that there could or should be some other form of paying for the Old
Hunstanton public toilets. Clearly the parish is very small and it would be unfair to ask the residents to pay either a special expense or increase their local precept. Where is the benefit to them? So what are the options, well they might be to reinstate some form of community charge
on the, possibly, hundreds of chalets /beach huts that have no other visible means of conducting toilet needs. If this is not possible, create a company to arrange a service charge on the chalets/beach huts to
cover some or all the costs. Approach the landowners who run the revenue-producing car park adjacent for a contribution towards the toilet upkeep and, if all this fails, sell or gift them to an independent body that can charge for the service, whatever that might be. I am not blaming the officers in all this as they were given a brief to find savings in the public toilet sector, which they did.