Closure threat to select city public toilets
Some public toilets in Sunderland could face closure as part of budget proposals by cash-strapped council bosses.
Last month, Sunderland City Council revealed a “pay to pee” scheme which could see charges rolled out across public toilets in the city.
The revenue proposal aims to save about £155,000 as the council faces a £12million cut in service spending next year.
Councillors have heard that the possibility of closing select public toilets was still on the table, with the council aiming to collect useage figures.
This includes an infrared “clicker” – a beam which is broken every time someone passes – to help provide a clearer picture of footfall.
Head of place management at Sunderland City Council, Mark Speed, revealed details on the proposals at the authority’s Scrutiny Co-ordinating Committee this week. “The proposal that we initially put forward was around shutting down public toilets because, as you know, some of them are not in brilliant states at all and we’re struggling to maintain and clean them,” he told councillors at Sunderland Civic Centre.
“We all know public toilets aren’t necessarily used for what they were designed to be used for, they’re not necessarily places where residents are going there and feeling safe.
“What we’re looking to do is to shut down some of the facilities or to introduce a charge. What I will say about this is that it has not been taken lightly.”
The council has a portfolio of 11 public toilets of which 10 are actively used.
It is not clear which public toilets would be sidelined for closure if the “pay to pee” scheme is dropped at a later stage.
Coun Niall Hodson, raised concerns about the “negative public perception” of charges potentially limiting access for disabled people and pregnant women.
“I would be curious to know what our fall back is on issues like this and what we can do to protect these people,” he said.
Mark Speed, responding, said environmental services has limited ability to make savings as many services are “income generators”.
He added: “There’s no intention of us shutting down the (toilet) that has just been developed in Roker, but that’s not just a toilet, its a cleaning facility for people who potentially need a site they can be taken to by carers or people they’re with.”
The proposals are subject to further details in the Government’s financial settlement this month.
Firmer proposals are set to be made in the new year, in line with the final budget in March 2019.
“We’ re struggling to maintain and clean them” MARK SPEED
The plans were revealed at Scrutiny Co-ordinating Committee.