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British Toilet Crisis 2006-07-23

Posted by clype in Health, Scotland.

Public lavatories in Britain are in such a poor state that restaurants and cafés should allow non-customers to use their toilets for a nominal charge, a government minister andThe British Toilet Association‘ (‘The BTA‘) said yesterday 2006-07-21.

‘The BTA‘, which campaigns for the maintenance of good-quality public toilets, claims that the loss of the traditional toilet attendant has led to rising levels of vandalism and a subsequent decline in facilities.

Mr.Richard Chisnell, director of ‘The BTA‘, said that if councils could not supply manned toilets, alternatives had to be found. He said:

‘This is a serious issue and something has to be done.

‘If local authorities don’t have the money and there’s no statutory requirement for them to supply them, there has to be a grown-up debate about catering for people’s needs.

‘This involves a partnership with commercial providers.’

The call follows comments by the UK local government minister, Mr.Phil Woolas, that Whitehall planned to shift responsibility for public conveniences to the private sector.

He said businesses should follow the example of Mcdonald’s restaurants, which has a reputation for allowing non-customers to use its toilets.

‘Why should they be the only ones? And why does it have to be a furtive affair?’ he said.

But ‘The Scottish Executive‘ said it was the responsibility of local authorities and private businesses to look at this issue.

Mr.Chisnell said the state of public toilets was a matter of ‘civic pride’ and that the likes of East Lothian, which had won many awards for the quality of its public toilets, contrasted with Edinburgh, which he described as ‘failing’. He added the state of public conveniences was a key factor in the way visitors perceived a town or city.

An Edinburgh Council spokesman defended the standard of the city’s public lavatories. She said:

‘To maintain a high standard of cleanliness, all the toilets are cleaned several times a day by a mobile cleaning squad.

‘Unfortunately, due to staff safety, the council is unable to provide a 24-hour service in toilets with on-site attendant. This does place the onus on the public to be responsible at times when the toilets are not open.’

However, a spokesman for East Lothian Council said the authority saw the importance of manned public toilets. She said:

‘Our local economy relies heavily on tourism, and toilet facilities are extremely important to individuals and tourism firms.

‘Research has shown that families and tour groups return to towns and villages with top-standard toilets. In this day and age, public toilets deserve to be of the highest hygienic standards for all to access.’

However, Mr.David Kennedy, spokesman for ‘COSLA‘, the council representative body, said:

‘I don’t think that we have an issue with our toilets in the same way they do in England [& Wales]. I’m not even aware that they are in decline.

‘Also, the idea of cafés and restaurants charging leaves open the question of “how much?” and how do you monitor charges.

‘Market forces mean that a cafe in the middle of Glen Coe might charge an exorbitant price if it was the only toilet for miles.’

The British Toilet Association (‘The BTA‘) was established in 1999 to ‘represent the interests and aspirations of away from home’ toilet providers, and to act as the ‘catalyst for change in the pursuit of standards of excellence in all areas of public toilet provision and management’.

  • The association claims that while Britain’s toilets were ‘once the envy of the world’, there has been a severe drop in the quality and number of public conveniences.

One of the main planks of its campaign is the return of the toilet attendant as a way of maintaining standards and combating the vandalism and anti-social behaviour that ‘The BTA‘ says has led to councils abandoning public toilets.

The body lobbies the government and local authorities for a committed approach to local provisions. It also runs the ‘Loo of the Year awards’, established 19 years ago to recognise and encourage the highest possible standards in all types of public toilets, and which have been won by the likes of East Lothian and Highland Councils.



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