A campaign to force a u-turn on proposed public toilet closures is all systems go.

Under proposals by the Green administration at Brighton and Hove City Council nine public toilets would close and six remain open but with reduced attendance hours.

The proposals are aimed at saving £163,000 from the Cityclean budget and if agreed would come into effect in 2012/13.

But opposition councillors and campaigners for the disabled and elderly have panned the proposals.

A petition and Facebook group has now been set up calling for the council to Leave Our Loos Alone (LOLA).

If the measures are approved it would mean the city losing almost 30% of its public toilets over a decade.

A council spokeswoman said in 2002 there were 53 public toilets compared to 47 now, becoming 38 under the budget proposals.

'Need to open'

Disability campaigner, Chris Kift, from the public toilet users’ group, run by the Brighton and Hove Local Involvement Network, but said he had no idea cuts to toilets were in the offing.

He said: “We had been talking about the need to open more toilets not to close the ones we have already got. It goes against everything we have been recommending.

“The council may say that they are planning to close toilets only if there are other alternatives nearby but we need to make sure those alternatives are accessible for disabled or elderly people.”

Mr Kift said the council’s Use Our Loo scheme, in which businesses allow public access to their toilets, was unfair on those offering their services.

He said: “It is one thing to ask them to help out in addition to what the council is offering but it is completely another to ask them to replace a public service.

“This is a bad decision that will affect far too many people for too little gain for the council. It needs to be re-thought immediately.”

The LOLA campaign was launched this week by the Brighton and Hove Labour and Co-Operative group. Their calls were backed during a visit by shadow cabinet member for communities and local government.

Group leader Gill Mitchell said: “Toilets are a basic public service and are essential for parents of young children, older people, and people with medical conditions such as diabetes.

"I’m pledging today that the Labour and Co-operative group will vote to stop any toilets in Brighton and Hove closing when the Greens bring their budget of cuts to council.”

MP backing

The campaign also has the backing of Hilary Benn, shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

Conservative group leader Geoffrey Theobald said: “This is an example of how the Greens are targeting really important frontline servicers.

“Younger people might feel comfortable with going to use the toilet in a pub without buying a drink but a lot of older people wouldn’t and parents with children will also find that difficult."

The authority has previously been flushed with success in relation to its toilets, having come top of the 2011 Premier League for local authority public toilets.

A council spokeswoman said: “The decision to include toilet closures as part of the proposed budget cuts was not easy.

“However, we have done everything we can to minimise the effects on residents and most of the toilets earmarked for closure have been selected where there are other alternative facilities within walking distance.”

The LOLA petition can be viewed at www.gopetition.com/petitions/lola-leave-our-loos-alone.html and the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/LeaveOurLoosAlone.

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