A campaigner accused Brighton and Hove City Council of embarking on a multimillion-pound programme to “gender-neutralise toilets” in schools.
Laura King, from the FrIends of Brighton and Hove Citizens’ Action Group, asked what public demand there was for a £2 million project to “gender-neutralise toilets” at 21 schools over 18 months.
Without naming them, she made reference to projects such as the £300,000 contract awarded last term to turn offices into unisex toilets at Dorothy Stringer School, in Brighton.
A list compiled by the group, from published contract tenders, also cited the conversion of boys’ and girls’ toilets for mixed use.
A senior councillor flatly denied that there was a programme to “gender-neutralise” toilets, saying bluntly: “We’re not doing that.”
Ms King said: “If there is no public demand and no legislation requiring gender neutralising them, no governor or parent consultation, how can councillors account for approving £2 million from the public purse?”
She asked her question at a meeting of the full council at Hove Town Hall this evening (Thursday 2 February).
Green councillor Hannah Allbrooke who chairs the council’s Children, Young People and Skills Committee, said that there was no such programme.
Councillor Allbrooke said: “We’re not doing that. I’m not sure what I can say. We’re not doing a big programme to gender-neutralise toilets.
“There is a £5 million replacement programme for toilets in school buildings but there is no grand scheme for gender-neutral toilets.”
The annual schools “capital programme” published each March showed that £665,000 had been allocated to refurbish toilets at seven primary schools in the 2022-23 budget.
The report, to the Children, Young People and Skills Committee last March, referred to separate boys’ and girls’ toilets.
In 2021-22, the programme committed £1.17 million to refurbish boys’ and girls’ toilets at 10 primary schools and at Blatchington Mill and Hove Park secondary schools.
And in 2020-21, the council allocated £1.3 million to refurbish toilets at Hove Park and Blatchington Mill and 11 primary schools.
The council said: “This financial year, we are spending £665,000 on refurbishing school toilets.
“We work with our schools on the form of the refurbished toilets – with some separate boys’ and girls’ toilets and some cubicles that can be used by any pupils.
“This is a collaborative approach, on a case-by-case basis, agreed with the schools, dependent on their specific requirements – and each schools’ views are taken into consideration when drawing up the plans and specification for the works.”
In July 2018, former Green councillor Amanda Knight asked what progress had been made in installing gender-neutral toilets in Brighton and Hove.
Former Labour councillor Emma Daniel gave a detailed answer including a line saying that it was believed that every local authority maintained school had accessible toilet facilities and that some had shared-use facilities.