The Guardian reports on how Lambeth Council closed some libraries to save money, but then ended up spending more. It’s a lesson that all councillors could learn from:
A council that temporarily closed two libraries just before the exam revision season as a supposed money-saving measure has spent up to three times as much per day on private guards to secure the buildings as it would have cost to keep them open, it has emerged.
Details of the security costs at the libraries, run by Lambeth council in south London, were given to the Guardian following a freedom of information request.
The money spent on guards at one of the libraries was inflated as it was occupied for 10 days by local people protesting at the temporary closure plans. However, the figures show that even at another library not similarly targeted, the money paid for private security was almost twice the usual running costs.
With suggestions in the District Council that we should close public conveniences to help cope with government cuts and let the public rely on cafes etc , this article in the Guardian is quite informative:
How many seats in a coffee shop does it take to necessitate provision of a customer loo? Fifteen? Five? A solitary stool and a sticky counter? An existential question and one that, according to this toilet-user, depends on a complex set of circumstances, from what’s on the menu to where the chairs are positioned. (Five outside? Toilet unlikely. Four inside? Expect a small, whiffy loo with no paper towels in the dispenser.)
The correct answer, according to section 20 of the 1976 Local Government Miscellaneous Provisions Act, is 10. As in, cafes with fewer than 10 seats are not legally required to provide customer loos. Which is presumably why you can’t scoff a sausage roll in Greggs and then demand use of the washroom but you can order a takeout coffee in a central London Starbucks and get a key to the saddest toilets in Soho. (When it comes to public conveniences don’t be fooled by the romance of a key.)
Despite the 10-seat guideline, thousands of takeaways and coffee shops could now be forced to install a toilet or get rid of seating following a recent case in Hull. Two branches of Greggs, both of which had fewer than 10 seats, lost a legal battle with the council after the judge ruled that not providing facilities gave them an “unfair commercial advantage”. If the ruling, which is being appealed, sets a precedent, as many as 21,500 takeaways and 5,230 coffee shops across the UK – the vast majority of which are small independent businesses – could be affected.
“It would be a major problem,” Raymond Martin, director of the British Toilet Association, says. “Most of these are not going to be able to provide a toilet. Many would be forced to close down.” Would he expect a loo in a takeaway with only a few tables? “It does seem right to provide a toilet if a takeaway allows me to consume food and stay on the premises for a period of time,” he replies diplomatically. “But should we force takeaways to put in toilets? I don’t think we can.”
The real issue, he adds, is the loss of public toilets from our cities and town centres. The law currently does not compel local authorities to provide public toilets – of which there are around 4,000 in the UK – and the result is that Britain has lost more than 40% of its facilities in the past decade…..
Sports and leisure facilities in Rochford are set to come under new management from 1st July 2014, as sport and leisure management charity, Fusion Lifestyle, takes on the running of Clements Hall and Rayleigh Leisure Centres together with the Freight House, The Mill Arts and Events Centre and Castle Hall. The change is the result of Fusion Lifestyle’s recently announced acquisition of Virgin Active Management Ltd (VAML).
As part of the takeover, Fusion will be introducing an exciting range of new exercise classes, upgrading fitness equipment, and introducing online booking and membership services for the first time.
Fusion Lifestyle currently operates over 70 health and fitness clubs and sports centres across London and the South East of England, and their ‘Choice’ membership offers the opportunity to access any of these facilities under one membership.
Peter Kay, Fusion Lifestyle Chief Executive, said: “We are delighted to be involved in managing the sport and leisure facilities in Rochford and we are looking forward to continuing to provide the very best services and facilities. Because Fusion Lifestyle is a charity, we invest all our resources back into high quality sport, leisure and health and fitness services.”
Rochford District Council’s Portfolio Holder for Community, Councillor Jo McPherson said: “The Council is looking forward to building a strong working relationship with Fusion to ensure that residents continue to benefit from high quality leisure facilities and services. Residents can be assured that the facilities will continue to operate as normal during the transition to the new operator. Fusion Lifestyle has a strong track record of managing Local Authority Leisure facilities and understand how important these facilities are to local people. “
Another new government announcement is that when a council operates a “Community Infrastructure Levy” on developers (which Rochford will introduce eventually) 15% of the money will be passed to the relevant Parish/Town Council where development is taking place with, apparently, no rules over how this cash can be spent…
Sometimes big deals between a council and a developer do go wrong.
Just look at this situation in Brentwood where 8 Lib Dems councillors, 2 Conservative, 1 Labour and 1 independent are making on a stand. A deal with a developer that was supposed to provide a cinema for the town isn’t going according to plan:
The William Hunter Way scheme has become a protracted farce having been first agreed by majority of members back in June 2007. Over five years later and nearly four years subsequent to planning approval being granted, the project has stalled.
The council’s administration has categorically failed to deliver on its promise to provide a cinema for Brentwood residents.
As a consequence, the developer has now explained to the council that they wish to renegotiate the financial deal so that it better suits them in the current economic climate. That is inevitably likely to be to the detriment of Brentwood’s council tax payers. We as undersigned view this as unacceptable.
What’s more the councillors and the council administration are in dispute over a date mentioned in a council minute…
The Echo reports here on Rayleigh Sports and Social Club:
….David Medlock, chairman of the club, said they were holding a meeting to consider their response.
He said: “We are very surprised that despite previous assurances we were given the club would not be moved have not endured. We are equally disappointed why we have not been consulted about the reason for the decision and the consequential affect it will have.
“We are concerned that they have not appreciated the full nature of the sports and social club and the affect a move may have on the future viability.
The field contains two full size football pitches, three mini soccer pitches, a cricket pitch and a floodlight training area. The football facilities are used by seven adult teams, one youth and six boys teams. Cricket facilities are used by a total of four adult teams and three youth teams.
Lib Dem councillor Chris Black voted against the plans.He said: “The council is saying we are going to do what we want, you have to agree with our plan, that is bullying tactics. You can’t create good football pitches overnight, there will be a lot of disruption.“If the council want to do a deal then they should contact the club and come to an agreement rather than dictate.”….
Back on Jan 11th, the District Council Cabinet discussed what to do about public toilets. It’s an important subject, but it’s been a bit tricky to tell you what happened, even though a couple of opposition councillors – Chris Black and Michael Hoy – went along to the meeting.
The discussion about toilets was taken in ‘private and confidential” , so we can’t tell you what happened during the meeting – only what the minutes say. And you can download the minutes here. Regarding the public toilets , the minutes state:
That the Public Toilet Strategy and the recommendations contained under section 8 therein, as appended to the exempt report of the Head of Environmental Services, be adopted. (HES)
Which doesn’t tell you very much because ‘exempt’ reports are confidential reports, so we can’t tell you what the Public Toilet Strategy is.
CLOSURE-THREATENED public toilets in the Rochford district will remain open after all.
Five loos were facing the axe following budget cuts, but Rochford district councillors have had a change of heart and will now keep them open.
The decision affects toilet blocks in Hullbridge, Hockley, Great Wakering, Rayleigh and Rochford. If the closures had gone ahead, the only Rochford Council toilet remaining would have been in Hockley Woods.
Mike Steptoe, councillor responsible for the environment, said: “It’s is definitely not on the cards. We are now going to look at how we can maintain and bring them up to date.
“Through a good bit of budgeting, we have managed to find some savings in other areas.”
However, the reprieve may yet prove only to be partial, as they are still likely to close on Sundays and opening hours may also be reduced on other days…..
Leaving aside any ‘good bit of budgeting’, letting any of the toilets close would have started a really big political storm…
The ‘cabinet’ of the Distict council meets next Wednesday at 7:30. You can download the agenda from this page.
One of the items on the agenda is to start public consultation on a plan to reduce air pollution from the Rawreth Industrial Estate. The council is particularly thinking about the impact on residents in Victoria Avenue, Rowan Close and Stirling Close in Rayleigh.
Another item is the future of our public toilets. As Councillor Michael Hoy has already written, this is likely to be discussed in private and confidential session. So the public can’t watch and we can’t tell you much afterwards!
What’s perhaps worse though, are the ultra-strict rules that the Conservative Group have chosen, which currently mean that no Rayleigh Councillor is allowed to speak at these meetings. Cllr Joan Mockford and Cllr Toby Mountain are the ward members for Victoria Avenue and Stirling Close, Chris Black and Ron Oatham for Rowan close. It is bizarre that they don’t have a right to speak on the air pollution issue.
Essex Wildlife Trust would like to hear from anybody who spots Waxwings within the county. Email: email@example.com with your sightings and pictures.
This year has seen the largest arrival of Waxwings in the UK for many years. They have had a successful breeding season in Scandinavia and have exhausted their food supplies, so have come to the UK and Essex as they need berry bearing bushes and trees for food. They are a beautiful plump bird, slightly smaller than a starling with a mix of stunning colours and a prominent crest on their heads. The Waxwing is reddish-brown with a black throat, a small black mask round its eyes, yellow and white in the wings and a yellow-tipped tail.
They can be seen in large flocks and are a real wildlife spectacle. There is a real chance that these birds may turn up in urban areas such as gardens, parks and even supermarket car parks. They are often seen in flocks, feeding high up and can be heard by their distinctive trilling call. ..)
The Essex WT website has a long list of sightings in Essex, including 40 in Rayleigh on Jan 31st.
Someone left the following comment on our “Daylight Stabbing in Rayleigh” post.
It’s very useful to get a teenager’s view , so we are making this as the start of a new post.
Im a teenager in rayleigh and life is not as fun full as you think, their is hardly anything for teens to do in rayleigh , and these things do not appeal to everyone, i strongly agree that knife crime is wrong and so do most teenagers in rayleigh , but from my knowledge the attacker wasent from rayleigh, and from the lady that wrote the comment at the top, king geourges park may be full of kids , but were not always doing bad things, okay your son may not have deserved that but “feral pack”is an unwise comment to make, just because some teens do bad things does not mean to say we all do, the generation of older people immediatly think that were up to no good and were always commiting crime, if you think that your seriously wrong, maybe the council should invest some money into the younger generations and give them something to do , this will decrease the ammount of kids on the street and theirfore decrease rayleigh’s very low crime rate.
Hey, of the three of us who edit this website, Jackie and Chris have teenage children, Ron has teenage grandchildren.
We really do want to see more facilities for young people. But we have to get other councillors to agree with us on what to do, find a suitable location and then the council has to find the money to do it. And even when things are agreed it always seems to take a long time, so don’t expect anything quick.
But it would help if you (and your friends) would like to leave further comments here and tell us what you want to see provided, or have any useful ideas on anything else.
This website is seen by quite a lot of people at the council, not just those who leave comments.
Chris and Ron went to Downhall School yesterday. A lot of local residents and parents were there to get more information on the proposed SureStart Centre there. We learned that:
The County Council will be producing a planning application in late August.
Instead of the District Council deciding the application, it seems that the County Council will handle it itself. This means that District Councillors like ourselves will be able to express and make comments but we won’t have a vote.
Talking to residents and parents, opinions seem divided.
The plus points seem to be:
Extra facilities for the local community such as baby health care, childminding support, jobcentre plus and speech therapy – and some local people are keen to have these.
New classrooms for the school to replace the temporary ones.
The main concerns from residents seem to be:
Extra parking problems – access to the centre will be from Torquay Close, which was not designed for this, and this centre will serve half of Rayleigh!
A change in the character of the school – the local neighbourhood nature of the school may be affected and some playground area will be lost.
Worries about security – however the centre will have a controlled access (from Torquay Close). There are lots of SureStart centres elsewhere in the UK and we are not aware of any incidents caused by one of these.
Here’s one thought of our own:-
If the centre does go ahead here, should there be residential parking schemes in the roads around the school?
As always, we would appreciate your views , however in this case please email us directly, there is no comments facility for this item,
Now, Rochford DC manages five local woodlands – Hockley, Kingley, Betts,Grove and New England. Hockley Woods is the largest and pretty well known. In contrast Kingley Wood is almost a secret – lots of Rayleigh people don’t even know it exists. (It is tucked away near the A127).
The questionnaire takes about 2 minutes to complete. What’r more, if you complete it you have the chance to win one of ten copies of Oliver Rackham’s “The Woods of South East Essex”, the classic book for any local nature lover.