Council closes new unisex toilets after complaints

Archive photo of early unisex toilet

Rochdale Council unveiled a sparking new headquarters building a few weeks ago - at a cost of £50 million. Employees have started moving across to the new building - which is intended to cut costs by bringing everyone together. But far from inspiring workers with the design, it has shocked them with its introduction of unisex toilets.

So why are workers so upset, and what will happen now?


The decision to introduce unisex toilets outraged staff. Helen Harrison, Unison's Rochdale branch secretary, said in a statement: "People do have different views on it but there are a number of people who are upset about the unisex issue."

Fortunately, this outrage is fairly simple to sort out. The toilets are individual cubicles, which open off a corridor. Each has their own washbasin so none of the facilities are communal, and each cubicle can be assigned to a specific gender. The council has now said it will analyse the gender ratio on each floor in order to assign toilets fairly.

Operational services director Mark Widdup told The Independent: "Until the building is fully occupied the toilets will remain in unisex use until a full review is completed to determine male and female staffing ratios per floor. The toilets will then be separated into male and female use based on these ratios."

On the one hand, this was a terrible decision. With so much money spent on the new building it begs the question why none was spent considering the needs and sensibilities of those who would work within it.

On the other hand, who cares?

No-one is forcing people to go to the toilet together. People will still be able to go about their business reading newspapers, making private phone calls, and checking their make-up without the risk of being interrupted by the opposite sex. This isn't Ally McBeal.

Surely there are more important issues for council employees to consider than who goes to the toilet before them. And surely there must be something better for the Operational Director to do than 'review' who needs the toilet.

And why is this something the union is involved in? Widdup told the Daily Mail that the decision to review the facilities was based on "discussions with the unions". Really? Does that constitute a good use of anyone's time?

But what do you think? Let us know in the comments.

10 consumer rights you should know
See Gallery
Council closes new unisex toilets after complaints

The law states that any goods you buy from a UK retailer should be of satisfactory quality, as described, fit for purpose and last a reasonable amount of time.

This applies even if you buy items in a sale or with a discount voucher. You may have to insist on these rights being respected, though.

Useful phrases to use when you want to show you mean business include, "according to the Sale of Goods Act 1979" and, if it's a service, "according to the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982".

Some shops will allow you to exchange goods without a receipt, but they can refuse to should they wish.

If the goods are faulty, however, another proof of purchase such as a bank statement should work just as well.

If you attempt to return goods within four weeks of the purchase, your chances of getting a full refund are much higher as you can argue that you have not "accepted" them.

After this point, you can only really expect an exchange, repair or part-refund.

The updated Consumer Credit Act states that card companies are jointly and severally liable for credit card purchases of between £100 and £60,260 (whether or not you paid just a deposit or the whole amount on your card).

Anyone spending between these amounts on their credit card is therefore protected if the retailer or service provider goes bust, their online shopping never arrives or the items in question are faulty or not as described.

Start by writing to the agency asking it to either remove or change the entry that you think is wrong. It will investigate the matter and find out whether you have been the victim of ID theft or a bank's mistake.

Within 28 days from receipt of your letter the agency should tell you how the bank has responded. If the bank agrees to change the entry, they will authorise the agency to update their records. They should also send updates to any other credit reference agencies they use.

You can also contact your lender directly to query a mistake. If the lender agrees to the discrepancy, ask them to confirm this in writing on their letterhead and send a copy to the agency, asking them to update your file.

The FOS settles disputes between financial companies such as banks and consumers.

If a financial organisation rejects a complaint you make about its services, you can therefore escalate that complaint to the FOS - as long as you have given the company in question at least eight weeks to respond.

The FOS will then investigate the case, and could force the company to offer you compensation should it see fit.

Bailiffs are allowed to take some of your belongings to sell on to cover certain debts, including unpaid Council Tax and parking fines.

They can, for example, take so-called luxury items such as TVs or games consoles. However, they cannot take essentials such as fridges or clothes.

What's more, they can only generally enter your home to take your stuff if you leave a door or window open or invite them in.

You are therefore within your rights to refuse them access and to ask for related documents such as proof of their identity. If they try to force their way in, you can also call the police to stop them.

Private sector debt collectors do not have the same powers as bailiffs, whatever they tell you.

They cannot, for example, enter your home and take your possessions in lieu of payment.

In fact, they can only write, phone, or visit your home to talk to you about paying back the debt. As with bailiffs, you can also call the police if you feel physically threatened.

Thanks to the Distance Selling Regulations, you actually have more rights buying online or by phone than on the High Street.

You can, for example, send most goods back within a week, for a full refund (including outward delivery costs), even if there's no fault.

You will usually need to pay for the return delivery, though. The seller must then refund you within 30 days.

We enter into contracts all the time, whether it be to join a gym, switch energy supplier or take out a loan.

In most cases, once you've signed a contract, you are legally bound by it. In some situations, however, you have the right to cancel it within a certain timeframe.

Credit agreements, for example, can be cancelled within 14 days. And online retailers must tell you about your cancellation rights for any contract made up to stand up legally.

Read Full Story