South Lakes parish councils and community groups make success of running public toilets (From The Westmorland Gazette)
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South Lakes parish councils and community groups make success of running public toilets
DOZENS of communities are now flushed with pride thanks to an overhaul of their public toilets.
Yesterday, a meeting of South Lakeland District Council’s Cabinet heard that parish and town councils and community groups had made a success of running the loos, after taking over all but one of them from the authority.
Bill Smith, chairman of the Bowness and Windermere Community Care Trust, which runs eight public conveniences across the two communities, said that those in Braithwaite Fold, Rayrigg Road, Bowness Bay and Broad Street had all received a complete overhaul.
The other four would be refurbished once funds were available.
“We ripped out all the insides and they were re-tiled and re-boothed with brand new equipment,” said Mr Smith.
“We’re trying to run them as environmentally friendly as we can.”
Rex Abbott, clerk of Arnside Parish Council, which has control of the public convenience on the promenade, also praised the scheme.
“They are so much better now,” he said. “They were just old before and now they’re so much nicer to use.
Mr Abbott explained that the facility was previously just one disabled cubicle with a shelter.
Now three unisex toilets have been installed, including one which is compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act and a baby-changing area has been created.
The complete reconstruction has also seen them updated with energy efficient hand driers and lighting.
Users are asked to pay 20p per visit towards upkeep, although the toilets are opened up for free on days when cross bay walks take place.
Initially, SLDC said it was going to close 29 of the 39 loos across the area, after revealing it could not afford to fund more than 10.
However, an outcry from affected parishes forced SLDC to re-evaluate its plan.
A spokesman for the council said: “As discussions developed with the parish/town councils it became obvious that the local community could deliver these services at a local level more efficiently than SLDC.”
All but the Milnthorpe facilities - where there is an issue over land - have now been handed over to parish council control.
However, business rates paid by the councils on public toilets have become an issue which has prompted Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron to speak out.
He explained that Lakes Parish Council members approached him with concerns, after revealing that the business rates on their seven facilities came to around £10,500 a year - a sixth of the budget.
Coun Heidi Halliday said: "Lakes Parish Council, as well as paying business rates, also have to fund the costs of water, electricity, cleaning and other essentials.
“They provide a service for local people and visitors. More needs to be done to recognise this and support our parish council.”
Mr Farron added: “It is a service provided by a community for the public good – taxing them for providing that service is wrong and must end. I’ll continue to press and lobby the government to end this unfair tax on parish councils and communities.”
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