… The Coalition
November 12, 2010 at 11:30 am
An official response from the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) on public toilets!
This is the new government’s position, in response to my long (and in hindsight, slightly insane) email to my local MP, which, being 5 pages, none of you are going to read, so I’ll just say that the recommendations that the response refers to as ‘Ms Knight’s proposals’ were actually the recommendations of the 2008 DCLG Select Committee that I just happen to agree with.
I thought maybe, just maybe, the new government would reconsider the previous rejection of the Select Committee recommendations (actually I didn’t, but figured that I shouldn’t leave any stone unturned).
But their position on public toilets is remarkable identical to the old government’s position. Finally something they all agree on!
Dear Jane, (Jane Ellison, MP for Battersea, Balham and Wandsworth)
Thank you for your letter of 20 September, addressed to Bob Neill MP, enclosing email correspondence from your constituent, Ms Gail Knight, of (my home address), about the provision of public toilets. I have been asked to reply.
We believe that local authorities and communities should decide for themselves how best to run their local services and amenities, and that decentralisation and the redistribution of power, rather than control from Whitehall, is the way to make changes and to build the Big Society. The introduction of the Localism Bill will help this by shifting power from the State back into the hands of individuals, communities and councils.
I note what Ms Knight says about placing a duty on local authorities to develop public toilet strategies and developing a national toilet database, but I think that her proposals would run contrary to localism principles, place new burdens on local authorities and increase levels of bureaucracy.
It is right that local people should be able to hold local authorities to account over decisions taken on their behalf. Transparency is the foundation of accountability and we are challenging local authorities to give easy access to a wide range of data including service information. I understand that a considerable amount of public information about public toilets is already publicly available via local authority and other privately provided websites.
Andrew Stunell MP
Here’s why I disagree:
DUTY: Yes, any duty imposed by government on local authorities could be “an additional burden”. However the burdens and bureaucracy imposed on local authorities should be reduced in areas that are over legislated and over complicated.
Not public toilets, which is an entirely burden free provision – in fact a voluntary provision! Don’t penalise public toilet provision by not even placing a duty on local authorities to have a public toilet strategy, which they can decide themselves via local consultation, just because other areas of local government need simplifying.
DATA: With regard to the database, it still strikes me as weird that no one knows where all the public toilets are. There are national lists for schools, health services, even post boxes, but no one person knows the whereabouts of the nation’s loos.
And since the Audit Committee stopped collecting data in 2000 no one even knows how many
there are (The best national info you can get is from the OpenStreetMap
So for any future developments for toilet finding, such as an Iphone App or Web page with a search function, or printed maps and guidebook info that cross local authority boundaries, it’s, well, not possible.
The apps that exist rely on the public to submit information, which no site seems to moderate so often they may include Cafe Nero which might have a code on the door, but never the cafe that’s received £600 from the council to open it’s toilets to the public through a Community Toilet Scheme.
– and finally, “a considerable amount of of public information about public toilets is already publicly available via local authority and other privately provided websites.”
A considerable amount? or THREE?!
Three local authority websites.
One is Brent, a .kml file available through data.gov.uk or the London Datastore at data.london.gov.uk, as well as Brent.gov.uk
One is Sutton, at sutton.gov.uk, although this is only disabled-access toilets.
and One is Wandsworth, because I live there and received it via our open-data-loving local councillor. The local authority haven’t decided to make it open, so it’s not on their website, but it is on the coucillor’s website, here
The plus side of all this is we can now officially give up on national government intervention!
Phew. At least we know where we stand.
Now, back to that local government open data…
Entry filed under: Politics. Tags: Central Government, Community Toilet Scheme, DCLG, Local Councils, Open Data, Politics, Public Toilets.