Cleaning & Maintenance - May 2020

Page 24


Public loos - could relief be in sight? Raymond Martin, managing director of the British Toilet Association, reports. THE provision of standalone public toilets has been decimated over the last 10 years or so but, as I write this, it looks as if the tide could finally be turning. During the years of austerity, local councils were forced to cut their discretionary spending on public loos and, as a result, we currently estimate around 50% were closed, with an extremely adverse effect on the health and wellbeing of our residents and visitors. The British Toilet Association (BTA) has spent years working with our ‘corporate champions’ - Healthmatic and Danfo UK - and colleagues such as the MHCLG and NALC to lobby ministers and government departments about this vexing issue. So, we were thrilled when all of that hard work appeared to have paid off in October 2018, when the Chancellor’s budget statement included new legislation - the Non-Domestic Rating (Public Lavatories) Bill 2019-21 - to provide rates relief for all public toilets. This additional funding would greatly benefit and support local authorities and suppliers to upgrade and provide additional support for these essential services and infrastructure. Unfortunately, there was a major hiccup in September 2019 when the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament, resulting in the Bill being dropped. However, with our continued

lobbying, we have managed to get the Bill re-introduced and, in early April, it was with the PM and the House of Commons getting another reading. Let’s hope it is law by the time you read this. It could not be better timed, with Covoid-19 sweeping our country and the constant insistence of senior politicians and chief medical officers that we wash our hands in hot water and with soap. Public washrooms have always been a significant piece of infrastructure in our fight for increased levels of hygiene. The simple fact is that it’s everyone’s human right to have access to sanitation, clean facilities and water. The BTA continues to promote public toilets for every citizen’s health and well-being, social inclusion, equality rights, and both public dignity and decency. This country also has over 11 million persons on the Disability Register, all of whom require reasonable and immediate access to toilet facilities so they can function as part of their own communities. Over 10 million people in the UK, over the age of 55, suffer with severe or chronic bowel conditions that require them to visit a toilet, often at very short notice. They are also instrumental in supporting commercial businesses in our local high streets and town centres by allowing us to travel

further from home to visit cities, towns and villages and the wealth of historic and visitor attractions across the UK. Everyone using our transport network - lorry drivers, bus and taxi drivers, sales representatives, caravaners, commuters, tourists, and even social drivers just like you and me - should be able to quickly and easily access a decent clean public toilet. With the increasing fight against drugs and anti-social activities in public places, we at the BTA are working with providers and suppliers to make sure these units are kept clean and fit for purpose. We’re not averse to exploring the introduction of paddle gates and CCTV and the charging of a modest fee to ensure the cleanest and safest facilities. Ultimately, we want the government to take a serious look at the lack of public places for us all to use and give local authorities and commercial providers the legal guidance and the funding to retain and hopefully reopen and upgrade these vital amenities. Our mission is now to work with this government to tackle the problems faced because of the historic closures and to work closely with colleagues to formulate future planning on the provision of clean public washrooms and the ways we can improve our public hygiene and sanitary conditions. The BTA is a member of the British Cleaning Council. The views of council members are their own.

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24 MAY 2020


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