Tories pan Greens in motion on public toilets

The Conservatives have blamed the Greens for “disastrous” policy choices in a motion on public toilets.

Councillor Robert Nemeth outside the King’s Esplanade toilets on Hove seafront

They said that “insourcing” the cleaning and maintenance from contractor Healthmatic had failed and was the reason behind proposals to close more toilets and bring in charges.

The Tories also criticised Labour for insourcing housing repairs – dispensing with the contractor Mears and bringing the work “in-house”.

As a result, the Tories said, the council has presided over a collapse in the service, affecting thousands of tenants, and he wanted to how many millions of pounds it had cost.

Conservative councillor Robert Nemeth said: “The council’s insourcing policies are ideological and not driven by any common sense. They are dictated by the unions, not by residents.

“These policies have led to a complete collapse of services and cost city taxpayers millions more than necessary.”

Councillor Nemeth plans to propose a motion at a Brighton and Hove City Council meeting on Thursday (2 February).

The motion, published in the meeting papers, said: “Insourcing policies that have been pursued by recent administrations have had a detrimental impact on the provision of services to residents including by causing the collapse of several city services including housing repairs and public toilets, directly causing industrial action, costing millions more than originally budgeted to implement, unnecessarily wasting taxpayers’ money and contributing to budget overspends and creating backlogs leading to more contractors being employed than previously was the case.”

It also said: “The council has so far refused requests to undertake a proper analysis of the effectiveness of its insourcing policies or an audit to determine the extent of the millions of pounds of public funds that have been lost.”

Councillor Nemeth intends to call for a detailed report and put any further insourcing plans on hold until a proper analysis and report had been published.

He said: “The council insourced housing repairs in 2020 under Labour – and then insourced public toilets in 2022 under the Greens.

“Both decisions have proven disastrous. Both policies have cost tens of millions more and services have collapsed.

“In just three years, the insourced housing repairs service has racked up a backlog of 11,000 repairs, hurting council tenants.

“And we all know about the 17 closed public toilets blocks – one half of the city’s total.

Councillor Dawn Barnett outside the public toilets in Greenleas which are earmarked for closure

“Why on earth would you cancel a public toilet cleaning contract which had five years left to run and under which all public toilets in the city were open?

“This is terrible business sense from the council. If residents want to pay more for a worse service, that’s fair enough. Otherwise, don’t vote for parties that support this insourcing disaster.”

Councillor Nemeth said that when the council brought the repairs service in-house, staff embarked on industrial action. And during the coronavirus pandemic, workers carried out emergency repairs only, resulting in a backlog.

Contractors were brought in to deal with the high number of repairs even though a key aim of the changes had been to reduce reliance on the private sector.

Conservative councillor Dawn Barnett criticised the proposed closure of public toilets, citing the effect on families using local parks.

She said: “It’s disgusting closing the toilets in the parks and on the beaches. They expect people to get fit and use the parks and children to play. They need to use the toilets.

“What they’re doing is disgusting, making people suffer for their own mistakes.”

The Royal Pavilion Gardens public toilets in Brighton are currently closed and may not reopen

Labour and Conservative councillors voted down a Green proposal to bring in charges for public toilets at a meeting of the council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee meeting on Tuesday 17 January.

The proposal is due to be discussed at the meeting of the full council on Thursday.

Last summer Green councillor Siriol Hugh-Jones accused the Conservatives of political posturing on public toilets – to mislead the public. She said: “Their attitude, quite simply, stinks.”

The council brought the cleaning and maintenance of toilets in-house in light of concerns about the standard of service by the previous contractor, the Greens said.

Brighton and Hove City Council is due to meet at Hove Town Hall at 4.30pm on Thursday 2 February. The meeting is scheduled to be webcast on the council’s website.

  1. Yiblett Reply

    So thanks to the greens there won’t be any motions.

    • Hendrik Reply

      There will be plenty of motions, but not where they had intended.

  2. Van Diesel Reply

    It took years for Mears to become good at what they were doing for the council and just as things were almost perfect they cancelled the contract. Everyone knew it would be a costly disaster and it has been.

    • Valerie Reply

      That is not my user experience. In-house reoair operatives have been more honest, done a more thorough job and in one redone case (overhead light fixture) the electrician found a live wire left LOOSE in the ceiling void!

      Inhouse removed the Mears profit cut of costs and the sub, sub unaccountable contractors – who teavelled in from God knows where for jobs.

      I would like to think local people are employed to do local work and that there is proper council oversight. This of course requires trades experts not managerial suits to be running the inhouse Repair & Maintenance service.

      Maybe put adverts for needed operatives in the annual council tax mailing to attract DFL and other incomer resident expertise if there is a shortage!

    • mart Burt Reply

      Van Diesel
      Opinions vary on Mears, In my experience a five year old could do a better job.

  3. Hovelassies Reply

    This is unacceptable. Many people have medical conditions that require them to have ready access to toilets (particularly women). Closing public toilets is akin to refusing to provide ramps for wheelchair users. Charge for them if needed. Learn from other countries. Look at the public toilets in Istanbul that are entered with a tap of a credit card.

    10 Reasons Why Toilet Access Is Important
    1. While toilets are often taken for granted, overlooked or regarded as mundane, for others access to adequate toilet space is a crucial practical issue on a daily basis.
    2. Access for disabled people means more than wheelchair access and ramps. It is also about handrails, hoists, adult changing benches, shelf-space and sensory access ….among other things.
    3. Public toilets should be about the provision of a safe and convenient public amenity
    4. ‘Ladies’ and ‘Gents’ are not unproblematic terms for many individuals and groups, particularly trans people looking for a gender neutral option. Binary gender labels lead some trans people to feel unsafe in either toilet, and can also lead to other toilet occupants feeling entitled to monitor ‘correct’ usage.
    5. Some people (including disabled people, trans people, carers, older people) plan journeys around access to toilets. Others don’t drink when they go out to avoid needing to find a toilet that is suitable for their needs. Greater access to toilets means greater access to community and to the world!
    6. Cuts and privatisation have led to the closure of many public toilets. Free toilet provision in public spaces, such as city centres, squares, stations, parks and beaches should be a basic necessity for a socially inclusive society.
    7. Toilets often reflect the rights of dominant groups to occupy and label public space. Re-thinking toilet access can help us to re-think definitions of ‘able’-bodiedness, gender and public space. Providing accessible toilets can validate, reinforce and celebrate public culture and our shared ‘right to the city’.
    8. Different users have different requirements in toilets, and these may be related to issues of disability, gender, faith and age. Toilets are therefore multi-functional and complex spaces… places for getting dressed, breastfeeding, administering medicine, caring, washing, privacy, and talking.
    9. Toilets have a long and radical history in design culture. Twenty-first century toilets need to reflect current and cutting-edge thinking on space, accessibility and design.
    10. EVERYONE has a good toilet story to tell…but toilet design is often unimaginative, clinical and functional accessible toilets. Accessible spaces can be innovative, stylish and creative too.

  4. Clive Reply

    The main reason why the closure of public toilets is even having to be considered is because of the national government starving local government of the necessary resources.

    That’ll be the Tory government, and it’s a bit rich for their local acolytes to pretend that this somehow has nothing to do with them, and that more privatisation, feeding more private profit, is going to sort out public services.

    • Nige Reply

      Ah yes, the ‘get out jail free’ card being played.

      Sorry but this simply isn’t good enough. Take Lewes as an example – they have four public toilet blocks (that I’m aware of, might be more). Yet all are available and none are scheduled for closure.

      Care to explain how Lewes have excellent public toilet provision but B&H haven’t?

      • Clive Reply

        The fact that it’s a rich town with far less social problems than Brighton and Hove might have something to do with it, perhaps? (And I hardly think having four sets of bogs open consitutes ‘excellent’ provision).

        I’ll double down on it: the main reason why this is even being considered is because the local government settlement was considerably worse than was expected. A number of Tory-run local authorities (Hants and Northants) have also had real trouble in balancing the books. In East Sussex you have Tory councillors suggesting that people write to their Tory MPs to complain. Perhaps you’d care to stop trying to deflect what is a pretty incontrovertible point.

        • Nige Reply

          Yet the council manages to squander millions on ideological and vanity projects, whilst neglecting basic services. It’s a matter of priorities. Sorry, I’m not accepting your argument Clive.

          • Clive

            If you mean spending money on cycling infrastructure (the usual thing that the usual suspects whinge about on here), then this comes out of a central pot that the council have to bid for, and it’s for that purpose only, so it can’t be spent on keeping toilets open or anything else.

            I’d far sooner have the encouragement of cycling as an ‘ideological and vanity project’ than keeping the rich rich while driving the British economy at full tilt into a brick wall. which seems to be the present Tory USP.

        • Helen Reply

          Clive 31 January 2023 at 4.42pm
          If you mean spending money on cycling infrastructure (the usual thing that the usual suspects whinge about on here), then this comes out of a central pot that the council have to bid for, and it’s for that purpose only, so it can’t be spent on keeping toilets open or anything else.
          Utter bull Clive. There’s a ring fenced pot or grant that must only be used for projects. Careful study of funding will tell you funding grant for Hove, is £9M. The whole project is at this time £13M. £4 million short, where do you think the rest of the money comes from?
          Research tells us, council tax, another loan, contributions form outside sources and more importantly £300K diverted from TOILET REFURBISHMENT is used to fund this project.
          Do some research and do please tell us how much council taxes are to be used to top up A259 (marina), VG3, A259 Marina – Aquarium Cycle lanes and other projects.
          Yes we get funding, but we also have to top it up.

          I’d far sooner have our basic service’s dealt with, than these pointless and continuous ‘ideological and vanity projects’ that seem to be the priority of this council who are killing this city.

    • mart Burt Reply

      Or The main reason why the closure of public toilets is even having to be considered is because of the local council knowing there’s a shortfall in budgets and has been for a decade, decide to allocate funding in the wrong departments and over subscribed in Government ring fenced projects meaning having to spend council taxes on topping up various schemes, starving local residents of the necessary resources.

      That’ll be the Green Council. It’s a bit rich for their local supporters to blindly pretend that this has nothing to do with them and more council taxes wasted on vanity projects is going to sort out public services.

  5. Joe Stains Reply

    Toilets; a dirty word and a dirty thing, but so necessary for the survival of the human race

  6. ChrisC Reply

    So the Tories want to re privatise the toilet cleaning contract back to the private sector who did such a good job the council had to bring it back in house.

    Private sector isn’t immune from the same issues as the council – lack of available workers willing to do the job for what is rubbish money as well as dealing with the mess caused by vandals and people who can’t all are t,t use a toilet properly.

    The private sector isn’t going to suddenly provide fully open and staffed toilets unless the council pays them.

    • mart Burt Reply

      ‘So the Tories want to re privatise the toilet cleaning contract back to the private sector who did such a good job the council had to bring it back in house’.
      You are aware there’s more than just one company in the field right?

      ‘Private sector isn’t immune from the same issues as the council – lack of available workers’
      Oh yes the old due to Brexit, Covid we can’t get staff routine that is getting boring now. Plenty of staff found for other posts however, strange that.
      ‘willing to do the job for what is rubbish money’.
      Depends on the agreed rates between the employer and employee.

      Dealing with the mess caused by vandals and people who can’t use a toilet properly.

      That’s a cleaners job isn’t it. If people didn’t make a mess we wouldn’t need a cleaner, just someone to lock and unlock, change the toilet paper and top up soaps and mop the floor.

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