Women told to share public loos with men in Camden

Women told to share public loos with men in Camden: Fury as Labour-run council that spent £10K on ‘inclusive’ trans road crossing can’t find the cash to fix gents… so makes ladies ‘gender-neutral’

  • Women have been told to share public toilets in Camden Town with men 
  • Cash-strapped Camden Council said it shut men’s loos due to Covid 
  • But officials have prolonged the closure, citing a budgeting shortfall 
  • Labour-run council hit headlines after splurging on trans flag road crossing 

A Labour-run council has sparked fury in London’s Camden Town after making a women’s public toilets ‘gender-neutral’. 

Cash-strapped Camden Council last hit the headlines after splurging thousands of pounds on an ‘inclusive’ trans flag road crossing despite concerns it could cause confusion to visually impaired pedestrians.

It has now told women who want to use the public toilet at the end of Parkway, located by the Tube station, to share with men due to a budget shortfall – meaning the ‘ladies’ is now gender-neutral.

And this has happened with a certain irony, given that the women’s toilets were installed after Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw campaign for a separate convenience space for females.

Officials insist that the men’s had to shut due to ‘social distancing reasons’ during the coronavirus crisis.

But the loos have remain closed since because ‘urgent repairs are needed’ and the council is ‘looking for money in the budget to pay for them’, according to the Camden New Journal. 

Cllr Richard Cotton told the paper: ‘I think it’s very worrying that this is subject to budgeting. If there is money for other things, there should be money for this. It’s crucial that women have their own toilets.

Cash-strapped Camden Council has now told women who want to use the public toilet at the end of Parkway, located by the Tube station, to share with men due to a budget shortfall

Officials insist that the men’s had to shut due to ‘social distancing reasons’ during the coronavirus crisis. But the loos have remain closed since because ‘urgent repairs are needed’ and the council is ‘looking for money in the budget to pay for them’

Camden Council installed the four-way blue, pink and white crossing at the junction of Tavistock Place and Marchmont Street (pictured) in November to ‘help celebrate transgender awareness and act as a reminder of the rich LGBT+ history’ in Camden’

An academy school has been criticised by parents after introducing gender neutral toilets for its children.

Cedars Academy says the facilities were introduced after requests from students themselves.

But after some concerns from a child at the Leicester school, one parent took to Facebook to complain about the decision.

While a few parents agreed, many pointed out that the academy in Birstall still has gender separated toilets around the campus.

James Rolfe, associate principal said the toilets were introduced at the request of the student council and the student LGBTQ+ group.

The school says the facilities have floor to ceiling cubicles to ensure privacy and are also in an open plan area covered by CCTV, for easy supervision.

The parent posted to Facebook, writing: ‘Have I heard right that Cedars has made all toilets ‘gender neutral’? My child now refuses to go toilet at break times as doesn’t want to be in mixed toilets.

‘Thus will be asking to go during class time, however this is generally frowned upon and often not allowed! What is my child supposed to do?’

Other parents flocked to the comments to weigh in on the discussion. One mum agreed, posting: ‘Don’t think my son could handle going in with girls, they are just all starting out puberty, it won’t be nice for girls either!’

‘Those loos were campaigned for and opened by none other than George Bernard Shaw. We were the first borough to have women-only loos, it would be pretty crazy if we were then the first borough to do away with them.

‘I’m going to keep the pressure on about this. It’s a matter of safety and privacy. I’m not sure how I would feel about one of my nieces having to have her first period in a toilet with men or boys.’ 

Susan Williams, who lives in Hampstead, called the toilets ‘smell, horrible and intimidating’.

She added:  ‘I didn’t feel safe in there, I would never have gone in if I wasn’t bursting. If one does feel threatened, it’s difficult to get out from underground.’   

Another complainant to Camden said: ‘The council have been promoting they’re putting money towards VAWG, doing all these token things but they won’t open ladies’ loos, we need them for safety and privacy.’

She added: ‘They’re not hearing us. I know a few people have written to the council, and it’s just not good enough. The council as a priority, need to find the funds – they need to be single-sex, it’s putting women at risk.’ 

A Camden Council spokesperson said: ‘For now a single block of toilets are open to all. Public men’s only and women’s only toilets are available nearby at the Crowndale Centre and Camden Market.

‘Camden Council’s public toilets are there for the convenience of our community and for visitors to the borough. We are constantly looking at our facilities to make sure that they are of a high standard and to ensure that anyone who uses them feels safe.’

It comes after Camden Council came under fire for installing a trans four-way blue, pink and white crossing at the junction of Tavistock Place and Marchmont Street in November to ‘help celebrate transgender awareness and act as a reminder of the rich LGBT+ history’ in Camden’.

A Freedom of Information request revealed how the Labour-run council, which is facing a £20million budget shortfall due to Covid, spent a total £10,464 on the project.

Of that, more than £6,500 was splashed on the blue, pink and white paint and the labour cost to install the crossing, while £1,850 was spent on ‘road safety audits’.

The total cost only covers the project to paint the flags on the pre-existing crossing and does not include the previously paid for lights, pedestrian crossing system and road markings.

The crossing, which is in Camden’s upmarket Bloomsbury District, is in the same London Borough as the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the UK’s only gender identity development service for children.

A press officer for the Labour-run Camden Council told MailOnline that the location of trans crossing on Tavistock Place had no relation to the gender clinic, after previously saying the two were linked.

The reveal of the cost of the project comes after planning documents previously showed that the council went ahead with the crossing despite groups raising concerns that it would impact the safety of vulnerable people.

Charities for the visually impaired and legally blind – who in some cases do have minimal vision – warned the colours could cause confusion, while groups representing people with learning difficulties also said it could have an impact.

It also comes after the council’s finance chief, Cllr Richard Olszewski warned the authority faced a £20million budget shortfall due to Covid and a ‘lack’ of Government support. Council bosses earlier this year predicted a black hole of £31.7million by 2023/4. 

Of the £10,000 spend, more than £6,500 was splashed on the blue, pink and white paint (pictured: The crossing) and the labour cost to install the crossing, while £1,850 was spent on ‘road safety audits’ 

Camden councillor Danny Beales  (centre) pictured with Mayor of Camden, Cllr Sabrina Francis at the new trans crossing on Marchmont Street, in the north London borough.

A Freedom of Information request revealed how the Labour-run council, which is facing a £20million budget shortfall due to Covid, spent a total £10,464 on the project

It has led residents to question the £10,000 spend on the new crossing, which some have branded a ‘disgraceful waste of money’, while pressure group the TaxPayers’ Alliance said residents ‘must be sick of seeing their council waste thousands on virtue signalling’.  

The Freedom of Information requests, submitted by local residents and shared on Twitter, has revealed how the total cost of the four-way crossing, believed to be the second of its kind built in the UK, came to more than £10,464.

Of that, a total of £6,500 was spent on the paint and the labour to create the four crossings points. A further £3,614 was spent on project management and road safety audits. There was also £800 spent on traffic management during the creation of the crossing.

The project had already proved controversial, due to concerns flagged by charity groups who warned the colourful crossing could impact on vulnerable pedestrians.

Camden Council finance chief warns of £20million budget shortfall 

Camden Council’s finance chief Cllr Olszewski last month warned fellow councillors that the authority faced a £20million funding shortfall due to the Covid pandemic.

He told councillors that the local fiscal toll of the pandemic was £96million – due to lost income and extra spending due to Covid – and that the Government support was ‘just over £76million’.

According to local news site Hamden High Express, he said: ‘(This has left us) with a shortfall of £20m and no sign of any further Covid funding beyond this year.

 ‘If we do not receive adequate funding from government then we won’t be able to do what we need to do. It is time for the government to act and honour its promises, which it hasn’t done so far.’

In August Cllr Olszewski warned the authority needed to make ‘tough choices’ in future, warning of a £31.7million budget black hole by 2032/4.

He blamed the Government, saying Westminster’s support ‘hasn’t been sufficient’ and that impact of Covid had come against a backdrop of ‘central government grant funding reductions’.

The Royal National Institute for the Blind – which has its headquarters in Camden – told the council that colourful designs at crossings could cause confusion to the blind and pose safety risks to those with bad vision trying to cross the busy street.

Transport for London’s Independent Disability Advisory Group also commented that people with learning disabilities or dementia may struggle to identify the crossing.

The group also warned that the crossing is likely to confuse older and disabled people, as well as drivers.

It further highlighted that people with sensory sensitivity could struggle with colorful crossings, which could cause anxiety, especially for people on the Autistic spectrum. Finally, the group noted that visually impaired pedestrians may find it difficult identifying the kerb edge.

These concerns were prompted by similar worries over colourful crossings across London. Those warning forced Mayor Sadiq Khan to pause the installation of any more colourful displays across the London transport network.

However, despite this, and despite its own Equality Impact Assessment, Camden Council decided to go ahead with the installation of the trans flag crossing.

Speaking at the time, Councillor Abdul Hai said: ‘Camden is renowned for being ”no place for hate” and a borough that has a strong and continuing history of respect and support for everyone.

‘These amazing crossings are not only an impressive visual statement to help celebrate transgender awareness, but also act as a reminder of the rich LGBT+ history and daily life currently in the Bloomsbury area and across Camden and should prove to be a popular draw to this vibrant area.’

Responding to concerns, it argued that there wasn’t enough information on the damaging effects of the crossing.

A spokesman for the council added: ‘We do not believe that the proposed activity will discriminate unlawfully against any protected group. The artwork is an opportunity to provide a more inclusive artistic experience for residents and visitors.

‘There are also opportunities to provide awareness of issues being faced by transgender people to residents and visitors, and to help local business to recover from the impact of the pandemic and to build on local community pride and social cohesion. This is a unique activity and there is a lack of information on potential equality impacts and mitigations.’

The spokesman added: ‘These markings are on Camden-managed roads, they enjoy widespread public support and have undergone all manner of safety assessment and audit prior to installation.

‘We work closely with Transport for London and will take on board their views when planning future colourful crossings. Camden will continue to work with disability groups to get feedback on the crossings now they are in full use.’

 

The installation was completed in November to coincide with Transgender Awareness Week 2021, which was held from November 13 to 19.

The week is described as a seven-day celebration of the trans community, leading up to the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which memorializes victims of transphobic violence.

Two weeks later the council’s finance chief Cllr Olszewski warned fellow councillors that the authority faced a £20million funding shortfall due to the Covid pandemic.

He told councillors that the local fiscal toll of the pandemic was £96million – due to lost income and extra spending due to Covid – and that the Government support was ‘just over £76million’.

According to local news site Hamden High Express, he said: ‘(This has left us) with a shortfall of £20m and no sign of any further Covid funding beyond this year.

‘If we do not receive adequate funding from government then we won’t be able to do what we need to do. It is time for the government to act and honour its promises, which it hasn’t done so far.’

In August Cllr Olszewski warned the authority needed to make ‘tough choices’ in future, warning of a £31.7million budget black hole by 2032/4.

He blamed the Government, saying Westminster’s support ‘hasn’t been sufficient’ and that impact of Covid had come against a backdrop of ‘central government grant funding reductions’.

The decision to spend £10,000 on a new crossing amid warnings of a budget shortfall has drawn criticism from social media users. One Twitter user, responding to the FOI about the crossing, wrote: ‘I’m sure the council sit in their meetings bemoaning their cuts in funding too.’

Another wrote: ‘Could have used that to feed the homeless, children in poverty etc.’

A third wrote: ‘These crossings are great but that is a disproportionate cost to do it.’

Meanwhile, Danielle Boxall, media campaign manager at the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: ‘Camden residents must be sick of seeing their council waste thousands on virtue signalling like this right-on road decor.

The pressure group, which campaigns for a low-tax society, said the authority had spent at least £26,605 on transgender and rainbow crossings since 2020, according to their own FOIs.

According to the group, alongside the £10,000 spend at Tavistock Place, and £14,000 splashed on rainbow flags in Camden High Street last year, the authority spent £1,850 on road safety audits prior to the installation of 11 colourful crossings on Tottenham Court Road titled ‘Bring London Together’, part of the Mayor of London’s wider ‘Let’s Do London’ tourism campaign.

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