Toilets could close if funds row unresolved

Arun Civic Centre, Littlehampton
Arun Civic Centre, Littlehampton

PUBLIC toilets may have to close next year if a long-running funding saga between councils is not resolved.

That was the warning from Arun District Council cabinet member for leisure and amenities Paul Dendle, following disagreement between the district and town councils in Bognor Regis and Littlehampton.

Arun has stopped providing a precept support grant to the authorities, citing government cutbacks for the decision.

In response, Littlehampton Town Council withheld funding to help pay for the toilets, while Bognor reduced its contribution by £10,000.

Speaking at last week’s Arun cabinet meeting, Mr Dendle said: “Certainly there has to be repercussions if people withhold funds because we are coming up against financial pressures.

“It’s not for us to say which toilets should close but we need to ask the council which toilets should close because they can’t have their cake and eat it.”

Arun’s cabinet agreed to set aside £49,000 to keep the toilets open for the rest of the financial year.

But Mr Dendle said the issue would have to be explored again next year if the town councils did not pay their share.

Littlehampton town councillor Dr James Walsh said: “We voluntarily agreed to take overall management of the toilets several years ago.

“Last year, Arun decided to withdraw £147,000 from the town council while still expecting us to go on providing services for them. We took the view that since it wasn’t our responsibility we would pass it back to them.

“Residents will take a very dim view if Arun decides in a year’s time to start closing any public toilets because they are down to the bare minimum now.”

Upon becoming cabinet member in 2008, Mr Dendle closed toilets in Marine Park Gardens, in Bognor Regis, following a similar dispute.

He added: “They shouldn’t have thrown their toys out of the pram because it only affects local residents. They should be looking at their budgets and doing the same things we are doing.”

Sue Holmes, head of street scene and leisure services at Bognor Regis Town Council, said the council would ‘welcome the opportunity’ to talk to Arun on a number of issues relating to public toilet provision but had been told there would be no benefit to reconvening the previously-held public conveniences working group.