2015 Director’s review

Director’s Review

Annual General Meeting on 6th April 2016

I believe it’s safe to say that 2015 has proven to be another extremely difficult year which has resulted in ever increasing cuts in services across the washroom industry. The continuing decline in toilet provision from the public sector undoubtedly remains the most vexing issue that the BTA faces as it continues to fight for these frontline services to be maintained and re-established.

The continuing austerity cuts now have many local authorities virtually on the point of bankruptcy and certainly facing extremely difficult decisions when it comes to discressionary services. Many local authorities have ceased to allow their officers or organisations to retain membership of any trade associations or even continue with subscriptions to trade/charitable magazines. Understandably, this directly impacts on our continuing battle to maintain our membership levels or attract new business and/or sponsorship.  With local authority budgets so desperately depleted we have witnessed for the first time an almost complete cessation in any consultancy and survey work. Subsequently, this economic climate has not allowed the BTA to gain any influence within local or national government departments to undertake any fundamental changes within their perceptions and considerations on funding or instigating legislative drivers to support public toilet provision. We remain acutely aware of the need for the BTA to find alternate sources of revenue and potentially position itself in different markets or areas that will increase its visibility and worth.

One exciting area of work that we have been actively involved in is the new Public Health (Wales) Bill
Mark Drakeford, the Minister for Health in Wales has devised a bill to put a duty on every local authority in Wales to create a strategy for the provision of public toilets in towns, cities, historical sites and along major arterial routes. It asks the authority to consider the breadth of user groups, tourists and residents that could be expecting to visit that council area and for officers to plan to provide sufficient toilets to cope with that demand. Both I and your Chairperson Jasmine Wilson have been instrumental since the foundation of this plan and have been answering questions and responding to information requests from the Health & Safety Committee, Welsh Government officials to help to finalize this document.

The most recent position is: On Wednesday 16th March, the Bill was placed before the Welsh Assembly but unfortunately was narrowly defeated by 27 votes to 26. The Bill was comprised of several sections including; e-cigarettes, tattooing, pharmacy, piercing and public toilets. Ministers were extremely concerned and voted against the extreme sanctions that were proposed regarding the use of e-cigarettes in public areas. Unfortunately the rejection of this element caused the whole Bill to be defeated.

In the coming months, we will work along with the Minister and other associated bodies to try and have this Bill reconsidered and if necessary altered to make it acceptable to the Assembly.

Whilst a number of conclusions can be drawn, there are TWO major implications that the BTA are keen to highlight/exploit. Firstly, if passed, then this document will immediately give toilets a home within government circles. They must now become part of the HEALTH portfolio!

For far too long now toilets have fallen between so many stools and all too easily council officers were able to shirk the responsibility for toilets as they didn’t lie in any specific council function. Some were Parks, Technical Services, Leisure Services, Environmental Services and even Building Control.
Secondly, if it becomes a legal requirement for local authorities in Wales – how can it not eventually be adopted and agreed to become a legal requirement in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland?

Every day/week in addition to the daily press, consumer complaints and general toileting issues the BTA office now has to deal with an increasing number of questions and enquiries regarding BS standards, legislation and H&S queries around closed facilities or impending toilet closures.

Raymond Martin

Managing Director

11th  May 2016