2:30pm Tuesday 4th December 2012
By Tim Ridgway
Charging for using public toilets could be introduced as part of wider look into the future of public loos.
As it has to make millions of pounds of budget cuts, Brighton and Hove City Council will ask what the future holds for the blocks which used to stand in practically every street.
Experts, individuals and community groups will be consulted as the local authority launches a widespread look into the issue.
Pete West, chairman of the council’s environment committee, who proposed the scrutiny panel, said: “Publicly accessible toilets are really important, particularly for older people, those with disabilities, parents of young children, pregnant women, but they also play a part in supporting more people getting around on foot and by bike.
“Given the scale of cuts the council faces over the next few years we have to find a way of making publicly accessible loos work in the long-term, which is why I requested a cross-party panel give this important issue in-depth consideration.
“The findings of this study will help inform decisions about this very important service in the city.”
Evidence will be gathered at a number of public sessions in the new year before the panel reports back in April.
Among the issues that could be looked at are how many, the cost, providing unisex facilities and better signs.
Potential charging and extending its community toilet scheme, which sees businesses offer their facilities to non-paying customers, will also be considered.
Alexandra Lewis, of Alfresco restaurant in Brighton seafront, said lots of people often walk into the premises asking to use their toilets.
She said: “They have loos but they are not always open.
“We actually had one elderly man who came in and he had wet himself as he could not get to the toilet in time.
“It was quite a horrible situation.”
Local authorities are not under a duty to provide public toilets but there are currently 81 in the city.
Some of these have been awarded the prestigious “loo of the year” national award.
Last year, a number were closed as the local authority looked to make savings and bosses have warned the situation could worsen as town hall budgets become more and more squeezed.
Officials have said any recommendations will likely have to be funded from existing funding.
Valerie Paynter, of Clarendon Road, Hove, organised a public petition on the issue earlier this year.
She said: “If we are to call ourselves a good host to them, this must be addressed.
“We need all-purpose comfort stations providing more than just a loo.”
Talking point: How important are public toilets? To what extent do you think a community scheme would work in Brighton and Hove?
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