The Council would like shops to allow members of the public to use their toilets - and they would like COV to help persuade shop owners and managers to do so.
COV members will be aware of our continuing campaign against the closure of public toilets and for the provision of adequate toilet facilities throughout the City. Our recent survey clearly showed that most older people (97%) thought that the lack of toilet provision would add to the problem of isolation many of them already experienced.
When we passed this information on to the Council we received a very disappointing response. The evidence was dismissed (in our opinion without proper consideration), and it was suggested that COV could help to provide a solution to the problem by persuading businesses to allow members of the public to use their toilet facilities. It was suggested that money could be made available to COV to cover our costs.
We gave the matter some thought, and agreed to meet with Council officers to see if the idea could be put into practice. Consequently, we met with Lisa Harasym (Coventry Council Community Development Officer), on 27th February, when she came to a meeting of the COV Management Committee.
Lisa was as helpful as she could be, and promised to convey several comments and complaints to the appropriate authorities, in particular:
But on the central issue of how COV could induce retailers to allow the use of their toilet facilities to the public, we made no progress at all.
Councillor Caan (Cabinet Member for Public Health and Sport) wrote in a letter to us: “In line with the 1936 Public Health Act legislation, the Council has no obligation to provide public conveniences”. We don’t see how we can persuade private businesses to take on responsibilities that the Council washes its hands of.We remain of the opinion that adequate public conveniences should be the responsibility of the local authority.
Here is a report by Norman Hendry, who is leading this campaign
Those of you who attended the COV AGM last year will recall that we reported on our campaign on the lack of public toilet facilities in the City centre and outlying areas. In the feedback session at the AGM, members agreed that this campaign should be one of our priorities for 2018. A sub-committee was set up to discuss the way forward, and made some recommendations to the Management Committee.
The first action agreed was to write to Councillor Caan (Cabinet Member for Public Health and Sport) to express our disappointment at the lack of an adequate response to our survey. This had clearly shown the public’s concern that the closure of toilets and lack of toilets in the City centre, and outlying areas, would lead to the further isolation of older people. You can read the letter here. Copies were sent to all other City councillors for their consideration.
To date we have received replies from Cllrs Christine Thomas and Roger Bailey. Cllr Thomas has been particularly helpful with information on an updated cleaning contract and planned refurbishment of the central library toilets. We await a reply from other councillors (including Cllr Caan) at the time of writing.
We know from the survey, and from letters published in the local press, that this matter is an important one, both to older people and the public in general. We are now asking COV members to help with our campaign in the following ways:
With your help we can get our local council to recognise the need for more provision of public toilets throughout our city, so as well as becoming a city of culture, we can become a city of comfort!
Many COV members will be aware of the closure of public toilets around the City late last year, and COV’s concern that this could cause more than mere inconvenience. We feared that it might worsen the already serious problem of the isolation of older people, and might even discourage some from leaving their homes altogether.
To find out just how much difference the closures might make to people’s lives we carried out a survey of COV members and the general public, and we are now in a position to publish the results. Before making the results public, we contacted the City Council, to give them the opportunity to consider the findings, to comment, and hopefully to take action.
Key survey results
Of the people surveyed:
The full results of the survey are available here.
We think the survey clearly demonstrates that older people will suffer as a result of these closures, so we put our case to Coventry City Council. We explained the reasons for the survey, how it was carried out, provided the results in full, and discussed the impact of the closures that the survey revealed. We put all of this in a report, which we sent to Cllr Kamran Caan (Cabinet Member for Public Health and Sport), which you can read here.
The reply we received was brief, and did not answer our concerns. Read the reply here.
In essence, it said that the Council had fulfilled its legal duties, and invited us to take part in a meeting to discuss improving access for older people to publicly accessible toilets in public buildings and quasi-public buildings. (i.e. not purpose-built facilities, provided and maintained by the Council).
Our concern is the effect that the closure of public toilets may have on older people (and other members of the public) – not the legality of the Council’s actions.
The World Health Organisation (WHO), in their document “Global Age-friendly Cities: A Guide” say: “The availability of clean, conveniently located, well-signed, handicap-accessible toilets is generally regarded as an important age-friendly feature of the built environment.” This seems not to worry Coventry City Council, despite their stated ambition to be an Age-Friendly City.
Before going ahead with the closures, the Council estimated that the amount that would be saved would be £50,000. Even in these difficult financial times, this seems like small change considering the potential hardship revealed by our survey.
Let’s not just pay lip-service to the Age-Friendly Cities concept – let’s make Coventry a better place to grow older.We implore the Council to re-open the public conveniences that are still standing, and to consider the well-being of their older citizens by including the necessary facilities in all new developments - such as Friargate and City Centre South.
We reported in an earlier article on the proposal by the City Council to close six public toilets in areas outside of the City centre. (Here is the link to the article). COV members were worried about the adverse effects this might have on residents. For some, especially older members of the community, such facilities are essential if they are going to be able to leave their homes.
Regrettably, the closures went ahead. However, we do not consider the matter closed. We fear that this course of action could mean that people who already find it difficult to get out and about now become further isolated - virtually trapped in their own homes.
But we need evidence to support (or indeed, to contradict) this view.
We recently carried out a survey, to find out what our members think about this. The survey closed at the end of December 2016, and we are now analysing the results, which we will publish shortly.
As part of their “Connecting Communities” consultation, Coventry City Council have proposed the closure of six public toilets in local areas. These are situated in Earlsdon, Foleshill, Bell Green, Radford, Tile Hill and Coventry Canal Basin. Two City centre toilets would remain open.
COV members have expressed concern at these closures, as they believe it could have a detrimental effect on older people and other groups when out of their homes, both in the City centre and outlying areas. They fear that the lack of facilities could cause further isolation of older people. This could be made worse in places where libraries are also earmarked for closure, as most libraries have public facilities.
Because of this concern, COV have set up a working group, which will be looking at the provision of facilities within local areas and the City centre. This will include where there may be other providers of facilities, such as shops, cafes, etc., and whether they are available for public use.
The COV steering committee will look at the working group’s report, and will let our members know the outcomes.
If you would like to express your views on the provision of toilet facilities in Coventry, please do get in touch via the Contact Us page.
To read about our survey on the effects of public toilet closures, please click here.