GBC Executive Committee axed funding for Public Toilets
On Tuesday 4th January 2021, the Guildford Borough Council (GBC) Executive committee axed funding for the Public Toilets in Ash. In its report, in regard to Ash Parish Council (APC), it stated that “it is acknowledged that removing this funding would result in pressures on their own finances. However, Parish Councils can raise increased funds via their precept, comparatively to other tiers of local Government”. This means GBC is proposing that Ash Parish Council should increase its Precept to Ash Residents to help plug the GBC budget deficit.
Last year APC froze their council precept, however with the external pressures from rising utility costs and now GBC will be faced with tough choices to either cut services or raise the precept. This is the latest wave of attack on services provided to Ash Residents at a time when many are unhappy with Ash receiving a disproportionate amount of housing development with seemingly less reward.
Ash Parish News contacted the Chairman of Ash Parish Council (Cllr Nigel Manning) for comment, he said; I am extremely disappointed at this latest decision by the Liberal Democrat / Residents 4 Guildford and the Villages (R4GV) coalition, who are responsible for the decision making at Guildford Borough Council (GBC). It is clear to me that they have no regard whatsoever for the residents who live in the West of the Borough, especially the poor, elderly and vulnerable in Ash. It would appear that there is a concerted effort to cut services and financial support to Ash residents. This latest unjustified cut comes on the back of the recent decision to savagely reduce the grant funding for Ash Citizens Advice Bureau. Moreover, a further decision is expected in the next few weeks to permanently close the Shawfield Day Centre following a rather pathetic, inadequate and dare I say pre-determined online consultation. I regret to say, it is not a Happy New Year for Ash Residents.”
Ash Parish Council made its case
The Clerk of the Parish Council (Dennis Wheeler) wrote to GBC explaining that;
“The public toilets in the Ash Wharf are essential not only for residents but for visitors to Ash Parish. Guildford Borough Council in the past must have recognised how essential this facility is to village life by part-funding this service. These toilets are used by many businesses including Guildford Borough Council Staff, Post Office staff and delivery drivers when carrying out their duties in the Parish. School children use this facility whilst using the Recreation Ground, or on their way home from school. The cutting of the funding will put yet another stress on the Parish budget and precept. Please reconsider cutting the funding for this very important service to the public in our village”.
Within the report, the Guildford Action Group is noted as saying that, “public toilets provide an essential service to all, with attention to those with medical conditions, the elderly and those with babies and young children“.
Executive committee meeting
At the committee meeting, the members heard from a guest speaker David Beamen of Disability Empowerment Network – South West Surrey. He petitioned the council to reconsider cutting these public services. He proposed that increasing car parking charges by 1% would cover these costs and that this “would be a small price to pay” to maintain these services. However, GBC has already committed to raising the parking charges quite substantially, which some also fear will accelerate a further decline in the Guildford Borough high street.
The committee agreed to consult on closing 5 of the 16 sites GBC, which it currently maintains, however as both Ash Parish and Shere Parish Council receive a public convenience grant, these have now been withdrawn immediately resulting in a total of 7 public conveniences being targeted by GBC.
How much does it cost to maintain a public toilet?
The documents within the report to the committee show that the Annual cost of maintaining the public toilets in Ash Common Ground is in is approximately £1000 per month. This covers Water Rates, Gas, Electric, Cleaning, Building Insurance, Property maintenance, Saff management costs. The public toilets are currently open 7.30 am to 6.00 pm daily.
What is a precept?
The Precept is a tax that Parish Council’s charge their local electors / residents to meet their budget requirements. This is collected via the council tax bill, which includes tax for County, Borough and the Parish precept.