Wc on WCs(October 16, 2011)
|Wiltshire Council must meet historic responsibility on WCs |
NEWS that Wiltshire Council hasn't renewed the contract for operating the Warminster public conveniences should be of no surprise to those of us who have followed their activities in the past few years.
They claim there are 'no plans' to close the facilities but there is a history of arm-twisting of town councils in other parts of the county to try to make them take on these facilities.
Five years ago, in the Kennet area, the district council (headed by chief executive Mark Boden, now one of the chief officers at Wiltshire) revealed that Kennet would retain public conveniences at only Devizes and Marlborough - with a dozen other communities including Pewsey, Aldbourne, Ludgershall and Tidworth shutting unless they were taken over by their town/parish council.
In Pewsey and Ludgershall they were taken on by parishes and were operated for about half the 'book-cost' of Kennet.
In Tidworth the town council declined the offer and the toilets were demolished leaving a community of more than 10,000 people without a publicly funded set of conveniences.
''Since the time of Joseph Chamberlain, a Liberal council leader in Birmingham in the late Nineteenth Century, it has been an accepted duty of the principal local authority to provide this service to the community,'' said former county coouncillor Steve Dancey.
''In taking over the district councils County Hall took on this duty and it is not right to try to palm it off on to parish and town councils some of which are incapable of running a bath, let alone a functioning public convenience.
''Warminster is a significant town, contributing more by way of Council tax than either Marlborough or Devizes' so I would expect it to be treated in the same manner with county funded conveniences retained.
''Our town centre has already been damaged severely by the activities of officials in Trowbridge but if they try this on they will find life very tough going indeed once the wind of change has blown through Waminster's polling stations in May 2013.''
"My understanding is that the town council, flushed with their success at the Warminster Civic Centre in attracting Wiltshire Council Health and Wellbeing support - has committed townsfolk to this historic responsibility as well," adds former Twentieth Century Liberal councillor Paul Macdonald.
"The fact is that a contract renewal of scores of public toilets that are highly mechanised has a better chance of getting value for money for ratepayers negotiated by WC than it becoming another stand alone 'white elephant' building that our current council will judge once again in terms of pounds, shillings and 'where to spend a penny' rather than community value!"