Fringe Box



Inconvenient Closures Likely to Leave Those Taken Short Hopping Mad

Published on: 8 Nov, 2021
Updated on: 8 Nov, 2021

By Hugh Coakley

A borough councillor has said that the government should be told to “bog off” over cuts that are provoking a decision to close four public toilets and cut grants to Ash and Shere parish councils who manage two others.

Guildford Borough Council (GBC), facing government funding cuts and a budget deficit, had no alternative but to recommend closure, he said.

Woodbridge Road public toilet is one of four proposed to close to save money against the council’s budget deficit. Google Street View

The proposal, discussed at the Service Delivery Executive Advisory Board on Thursday, November 4, was aimed at achieving a £65,000 savings from the £293,000 annual cost for the borough’s conveniences. Councillors were informed the council has no legal duty to provide public conveniences.

The savings would be made by making one of the toilet cleaner roles redundant and reducing the need for a vehicle.

Cllr Tony Rooth said “bog off” to government cuts.

The toilets proposed to be closed or passed to another organisation, were among a total of 19 managed or funded by the council. The conveniences under threat were named as Allen House, Bedford Road, Ripley and Woodbridge Road.

Officers noted there “will be extensive negative feedback from all external stakeholders. There is also some potential for any agreed closures to affect future bidding to retain our Green Flag and Purple Flag awards.

“Any closures could have a negative impact on the number of visitors to the borough.” This, it was explained, made the “equalities impact” very important as some groups would be more affected than others, “…but it does not rule out closures needed for our savings target. As always, we need to ensure the correct balance between the benefit of cost savings and the negative impact on, or perception with, residents.”

Cllr Jo Randall said residents may be “double charged”.

Tony Rooth (R4GV, Pilgrims) said that 11 years of “Conservative austerity” had left GBC and many councils substantial budget deficits. His initial reaction was to, “tell the government to bog off and keep all of our public conveniences. However, we would then face potential government intervention and forced to sell off other assets to satisfy the huge challenge of balancing our budget.”

Jo Randall (Con, Ash Wharf) was concerned that Ash residents would be “double charged” if the grant from GBC was removed and the parish precept raised to make up for the shortfall.

Cllr Bob McShee wondered whether the Woodbridge Cafe could survive.

Bob McShee (R4GV, Worplesdon) said it was sad to be closing toilets when Guildford was looking for city status.

He questioned whether the Woodbridge Cafe would survive if the toilet next to it was closed. Officers said there were other toilets within walking distance. It was discussed whether some toilets could be taken over or part-funded by other organisations such as the nearby cricket club or Woodbridge Cafe.

The proposal will be put to the GBC Executive in January 2022 and, if accepted, will be put to a public consultation.

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Responses to Inconvenient Closures Likely to Leave Those Taken Short Hopping Mad

  1. Dave Middleton Reply

    November 10, 2021 at 1:29 pm

    “Officers said there were other toilets within walking distance.”

    I make it about half a mile from the Woodbridge Road toilets, to the nearest alternative public toilet eastwards in Stoke park, about the same south to Bedford Road, or the Friary’s toilets and about a third of a mile northwards to the customer toilets at B&Q. Likewise, about a third of a mile to the loos of the National Trust at Dapdune Wharf.

    Not exactly short walks if you’re bursting for a wee!

    Us chaps can probably find some shrubbery to hide in for a wee, but that’s not really an option for ladies and nobody should be having to poo in a bush!

    Surely the provision of public toilets is a public health matter?

  2. Martin Elliott Reply

    November 10, 2021 at 4:57 pm

    Last year I asked a Lib Dem councillor why council house rents went up RPI + 1% (policy), but the estate garages rent, not covered by any policy, went up 3.4%.

    He said: “Charges go up because it’s a non-essential service which the council doesn’t have to provide at all and so it’s considered better to raise money there than elsewhere.”

    I’m not sure how he decided they were non-essential rather than non-statutory. But it seems the councillor feels anything that can be a “cash cow” should be, whatever the social needs.

    It’s the same in other areas. Too many budget papers presented at committee do not explain the options, for example off-street car parking. Decisions are made with no real explanation of pros and cons, eg shoppers’ car parks last December.

    Even allowing for Covid, no real progress evaluations have been issued on that complex situation. Except that Cllr Steel said it was popular with town businesses, not a word about the thoughts of parkers and residents.

    So I look forward towards the end of the year and expect more services with above-inflation increases or stopped, without real explanation.

  3. Georgina Grant Reply

    November 11, 2021 at 9:29 pm

    I quite agree with Dave Middleton’s comments. Public toilets are a necessity, not a luxury.

  4. Dave Middleton Reply

    November 12, 2021 at 4:23 pm

    Perhaps if the matter is truly one of saving money, could the cash not be saved elsewhere?

    For instance, by not continuing with the project of seeking city status, which seems to be being railroaded through with little, or indeed no proper consultation, of the populace of the borough or town. How much is that pointless vanity project costing I wonder?

    Editor’s comment: Council Leader Joss Bigmore is on record saying that he does not believe it will cost anything because of the indications he has received that sponsors would be prepared to fund the bid. See: Dragon Interview – Council Leader Says He ‘Understands the Anger’ Over the Local Plan , 12 minutes in.

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