Town council is set to take over a costly loo role
PEOPLE caught short in Tiverton could face having to spend more than a pennny to use the town's public toilets if councillors decide to take over the loo role.
Most public toilets in the town are provided by Mid Devon District Council, but with increasing budget pressure on Phoenix House, the authority may look to hive off the maintenance and upkeep of toilets to smaller councils.
Tiverton Town Council clerk John Vanderwolfe told a meeting of the finance and general purposes committee last Monday that he had already held a meeting with district chief executive Kevin Finan to discuss areas where the councils could work together.
However, councillors said that before taking on the considerable cost of cleaning and repairing vandalised toilets, they ought to consider whether some of the conveniences were fit for purpose.
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Cllr Caroline Rutley-Frayne cited the toilets close to the Jobcentre in Phoenix Lane as being "absolutely awful".
Cllr Mary Turner said it was important to have public conveniences close to the bus station for visitors to the town, who might otherwise come away with a poor impression of the area.
Cllr Janet Rendle said these toilets were poorly situated.
"If you are elderly or infirm and you have got five minutes to catch your bus, you are not going to be able to go up there and back in time," she said.
Cllr Neal Davey said there was some sense in provision of toilets being reclassified as a parish responsibility, though he was concerned at the extra cash burden on the town council.
He said: "Whenever Mid Devon surveys residents, public toilets are right down at the bottom of priorities in terms of services the council provides."
If the town council were to take on management of the toilets, Cllr Davey felt this should be done in 2014/15, rather than "on a whim" in the coming financial year.
Cllr Lewis Clarke asked whether the council might consider putting some form of system charging people to use the toilets.
He said: "If people pay to use the facilities, they will hopefully look after them better."
Cllr Colin Slade said charging should be explored further as it was something neighbouring West Somerset District Council already did.
Cllr Slade said a small charge of around 20p was not unreasonable, "not necessarily for all the toilets in the town, but perhaps for those which were most well-used, and could potentially subsidise other conveniences in the town."
Mr Vanderwolfe said it was estimated the annual cost of taking on the toilets would be £60,000 and though he admitted he was surprised at the cost, he felt the town could provide them cheaper
The council agreed to half the figure earmarked for running the toilets this year, in preparation for taking on the operation in 2014/15.
The meeting heard the public toilets in Lowman Green were likely to close, regardless of who paid for them. They are located a short distance from the Tesco supermarket which had a customer toilet and was open 24 hours a day for most of the week.
The town council already contributes towards the running costs for two toilets in the town and Mid Devon District Council, unlike with some services, does not have a statutory duty to provide toilets for residents or visitors.