Council to look into installing soap in public toilets

Professor Stephanie Short

Central Coast Council has decided to look into installing soap in all of its public toilets.
A successful motion from Cr Louise Greenaway on June 22 called for a report detailing the number of Council-run public toilet and amenities blocks, the reasons for the removal of soap from them and the cost of reintroducing soap.
It also sought information about vandal-resistant soap dispensers, brackets or other means of protecting soap installations.
The motion follows several weeks of the community Soap in Public Toilets Campaign to see soap installed in public toilets.
Around 200 residents left bars of soap in amenities blocks all over the region as they called for Council action.
Operation Soap in Public Toilets Facebook campaigner Professor Stephanie Short applauded the decision.
Her public forum submission was read to councillors prior to their video meeting.
She said she was thrilled with the outcome.
“All the people who have been active in the group are really pleased with the unanimous support of councillors,” Professor Short said.
“But the timing is very important.
“I understand Council needs to follow due process and ask for a report but the World Health Organisation is talking about the new normal, which includes continual health precautions, including washing our hands.
“We hate to think there might be a second wave of the pandemic but it would be terrible if Council didn’t do everything it could to keep community safe.
“I understand concerns relating to vandalism, spillage and slippage but the greatest benefit to the greatest number of people would be to reinstall soap dispensers.”
Professor Short told councillors she had first expressed concern when she discovered Council-run public toilets did not supply soap, despite the coronavirus pandemic and government advice to wash hands as a first line of defence against community spread.
Approaches to the media had attracted community support with other members of the community setting up Operation Soap in Public Toilets which became a popular social media campaign.
“We applaud the fact soap dispensers are provided in Senior Citizens Centres, libraries and the Peninsula Leisure Centre (where some soap dispensers are broken and not working), but urge Council to install soap dispensers in all public toilet facilities as a matter of public health urgency,” she told councillors.
The motion attracted some debate before being unanimously passed by councillors.
Council director Ms Julie Vaughan told councillors vandalism and slip hazards had led to soap containers being removed from public toilets but not from community centres.
Soap was sometimes used as a projectile and there were issues around hygiene she said.
Not even state-of-the-art vandal-proof toilet paper containers were standing up to vandals.
Cr Greg Best said, while he was very aware of the need to wash hands, people should be responsible for taking their own soap to public facilities while Cr Troy Marquart called for costings to be included in the report.
Cr Kyle MacGregor said most people would expect soap in public toilets and Cr Greenaway said the problem existed prior to the coronavirus.

Central Coast Council agenda 5.1, 22 June 2020
Media statement, 24 June 2020
Stephanie Short, Operation Soap in Public Toilets