Budget 2016 announcement could signal end to parish councils paying ‘toilet tax’
A measure announced in the Budget 2016, which could lead to parish councils finally being exempt from paying unfair business rates on their public toilets has been described as “very welcome news” by the National Association of Local Councils, which has been campaigning on behalf of its 10,000 grassroots councils.
The ‘toilet tax’ is levied on parish councils for running public conveniences they own or manage and is costing local tax payers thousands of pounds, leading to many public conveniences being closed all over the country despite their fundamental importance and value within communities.
The Chancellor's recent Budget announced in Clause 2.125 that 'the government will allow local authorities in England to use their discretionary relief powers to support publicly owned public lavatories from 1 April 2018', and NALC will be pressing for an early discussion with the Government and others on what this commitment means and how it will work in practice.
Public toilets have both a public health and economic development benefit, helping keep communities clean and desirable with closures posing challenges for communities where local jobs rely on visitors for the day-to-day success of their businesses, particularly in market towns and coastal communities.
In addition, these conveniences keep communities accessible for many people, such as families with small children and the elderly community, who rely on these important facilities being readily available. Worrying about being caught short or facing the indignity of having an accident in public can have a devastating impact on people in later life, resulting in many being stuck at home and cut off from the rest of society.
The Budget measure follows a proposal on this issue to government from Cranleigh Parish Council in Surrey using the Sustainable Communities Act 2007, subsequently refused by the Department for Communities and Local Government and now referred back by NALC for further consideration.
Despite being hit by costs of nearly £2,500 in business rates on public conveniences (Cranleigh Community Council in 2015/16), many parishes are continuing to spend their resident levy to keep them open but are cautious about taking on their responsibility from principal councils who are looking to save money. Councils all over England including Truro City Council, Falmouth Town Council, Dunstable Town Council and Sevenoaks Town Council have voiced their strong opposition to the ‘toilet tax’.
Councillor Ken Browse, chairman of NALC said: “NALC will continue to work with DCLG, the Treasury and the LGA to make sure the ‘toilet tax’ on parish and town councils is finished for good. The announcement in the budget is very welcome news and I’m delighted that the Treasury has heeded the parish call and opened the door to finally removing this unhelpful financial burden on parish and town councils”.
To find out more about NALC’s response to Budget 2016, please read here.