19 Aug 2013

Public loos flushed out by spending cuts

Unison says government cuts are hitting public toilet provision. #c4newspopup has come to Fowey, Cornwall, where the issue is particularly – ahem – desperate…

A lack of public loos in Cornwall?

In the last 10 years, new research shows that almost 40 per cent of the UK’s public toilets have closed.

It might sound like a trivial issue, but it is not: as well as discomfort for people around town, it makes life very difficult for mobile workers and often near impossible for disabled people if the only nearby toilet with access has closed.

FactCheck: Are council toilet closures infringing our rights?

The problem is that running public toilets can be expensive. In Fowey, Cornwall, the local council estimates it costs £30 a day to run just one block.

In Fowey, the toilets used to be run by Cornwall county council but in the last year, like many local councils in the area, Fowey council had to take over the running of the loos at the same time as there has been a big cut in funding.

Fowey Mayor John Berryman told Channel 4 News: “They are in constant use, they are a necessity. But Cornwall council says they cost £60-70,000 a year to run and Fowey council budget is only £42,000.”

It was initially feared that the town’s six toilet blocks could be at risk. However, ongoing negotiations between Fowey council and Cornwall now mean that it is hoped only one block will have to shut – although there are still concerns over costs.

In a statement, Cornwall Council said cuts had forced the issue – but maintained it was trying to work with local groups.

“A £170m cut in government funding has forced the council to review a number of non-statutory services it provides, including public toilets,” a spokeswoman told Channel 4 News.

In total, Cornwall has had to cut the budget from £3m to £1.5m.

However, negotiations with local councils and community groups mean that many of the 250 toilets have been saved.

“This means that just 36 of the original public toilets…have been closed,” added the council.

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