As part of the preparations for local government reorganisation in April 2019, which will see the district councils and county council replaced by a new Dorset unitary council, Bridport Town Council has been in discussion with West Dorset District Council about the future funding of the public toilets in Bridport and West Bay.
West Dorset District Council currently manage the public toilets but, as a discretionary service, it has indicated that future funding for this service cannot be guaranteed after next April. The town council has been keen to ensure that the public toilets are maintained and has been seeking to agree a package of asset transfers from the district council to provide ongoing income to support local management of these facilities.
The town council last week agreed in principle to accept an offer from West Dorset District Council which could see the public toilets in Bridport and West Bay being transferred to the town council to manage along with a number of buildings that will provide an income stream to help to meet the maintenance costs.
Councillor Sarah Williams, town council leader, said: “This was not an easy decision for the town council to take. However, the council recognises the need to safeguard the future management of public toilets in Bridport and West Bay.
“It had agreed to look at other ways to fund these facilities rather than expecting council tax payers to bear the burden and it is pleasing that West Dorset District Council has agreed to transfer properties and assets that will provide an ongoing income to help meet most of the costs of the service.
“However, we will also need to look at the scope for efficiencies in the maintenance of the facilities and consider and consult on the options for charging for use of some of the facilities, particularly in West Bay.
“Many towns around the country have lost their public toilets and the town council does not want that to happen in Bridport and West Bay. There is still a lot of work for the town council to do in finalising this agreement and in managing this increased property portfolio, but the council remains determined to maintain services that matter to our residents and visitors.
“Discussions will continue in the run up to the transfers hopefully being finalised and taking place in April 2019. We will also be looking for some certainty on the future funding for other discretionary services that the district council currently support, in particular its grants for key local organisations such as the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, arts centre and museum.”
The proposed package of transfers needs also to be formally agreed by West Dorset District Council’s strategy committee and the new unitary shadow executive. They are due to consider this in July.