It had hoped to save £131,000
East Devon councillors are being recommended to reinstate the StreetScene agency budget to enable the district’s beaches, parks and streets to be kept clean, and to consider reopen more public toilets.
In an attempt to make budget savings to close the budget deficit from its covid-19 response, £131,000 budget was earmarked not to be used this summer.
But in a report to Thursday’s cabinet meeting, Andrew Hancock, service lead for StreetScene, says: “It is now clear that we cannot maintain the required standards or keep bins emptied without using this budget. Using the agency resource will allow us to keep beaches, parks and streets clean in the face of increased demand, restoring staffing to our normal levels.”
He is recommending that the budget be restored, and has also outlined the cost implications of reopening more public toilets.
His report says: “Not keeping up with levels of demand has been directly evident in recent weeks and we have witnessed a significant increase in visitors to our seafronts. The teams who are operating at 20 per cent less capacity due to shielding and vulnerable workers being absent are really struggling with the basics of emptying seafront bins, litter picking the beaches and clearing up side waste, where people have kindly litter-picked.
“On a normal summer day during the school holidays, our operatives would empty the bins three times per day, with occasional evening bin runs when very busy. Visitor numbers over the past few weeks have meant that our operatives are emptying bins at least five times per day, and even this is not enough.”
On the reopening of more public toilets, five options are presented to the cabinet, in addition to the status quo of the ten toilets open from 8am to 4pm each day.
The toilets currently open are West Street car park, Axminster, East End (Lime Kiln), Budleigh Salterton, Jubilee Gardens, Beer, Foxholes car park, Exmouth, Manor Gardens, Exmouth, Queens Drive/Old Lifeboat, Exmouth, King Street, Honiton, West Walk, Seaton, Connaught Gardens, Sidmouth, and Triangle, Sidmouth.
Increase the opening times for the existing 10 toilet sites so that they are open from 8am until 8pm at a cost of £71,043 for the remaining nine months until March 2021. Mr Hancock says that this is the most affordable and gives more toilet access than some neighbouring districts, but there has been public pressure and interest from town councils and Members have all been asking for a greater degree of toilet access
Reopen toilets at Cliff Path (West End, Steamer Steps), Budleigh Salterton, Magnolia Centre, Exmouth, Phear Park, Exmouth, and Market Place, Sidmouth, and have the 14 toilets open from 8am to 4pm, at a cost of £53,282.25 for remaining 9 months until March 2021.
Extend the opening hours of the existing 10 toilet sites and add the additional four toilets as in option B, taking the total number of toilets open to 14 toilets with increased opening times from 8am until 8pm. The additional cost for this option is £124,325 for the remaining 9 months until March 2021, and Mr Hancock said if budget can be made available, this is the most sensible, however it is at a significant cost. An alternative whereby they close toilets at 5pm in the winter would cost £76,962 for the remaining 9 months until March 2021.
Open all 17 public toilets that are currently closed from 8am to 4pm daily, which would cost £213,135 for 9 months. But Mr Hancock said: “It is felt that option D is financially unviable, given that the total public toilet budget is currently £732,320 excluding depreciation and the council’s in year deficit is around £5.3 million due to Covid related impacts.”
Re-open all toilets but revert back to normal cleaning standards with one clean each day and top up visits. Mr Hancock said: “We have not gone into detail on this option as we believe it does not follow government guidance and does not take reasonable steps to protect the public and reduce the risk of viral transmission in our facilitates.”
His report adds: “The problem of public toilet availability is compounded by cafes and pubs not providing toilet facilities. Even when hospitality re-opens it’s likely it will not be as simple as it was for people to access private sector toilet facilities.”
Public toilets provision is a discretionary service and therefore not one that councils are required to provide, but Mr Hancock said: “The risk of not opening the existing 10 toilets longer, or opening more toilets is one of public dissatisfaction as well as public health. People are relieving themselves outside of closed facilities and in bushes around our parks and beaches, if this persists or gets worse it could create a public health issue.
“Not having enough public toilet facilities when high streets re-open will also create a reputational risk and a risk that people don’t have adequate toilet facilities when out. Both could have a detrimental impact on high streets re-opening safely and on our areas economic recovery.”