Public toilets face axe in council funding crisis

Suburban toilets such as this one in Portobello are under threat. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Suburban toilets such as this one in Portobello are under threat. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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most of the Capital’s 29 public toilets face the axe under plans to slice £600,000 from annual running costs.

Council leaders want to cut £300,000 from the maintenance budget for loos now and have suggested slashing the same amount again in the 2015-16 budget.

With seven recently upgraded city centre facilities likely to be protected, it is understood up to 20 conveniences – including nearly all of those located in Edinburgh’s urban villages and suburbs – are set to go.

The proposed closures come after the latest budget plan revealed key services including sports centres, football pitch lining and grass-cutting could all be hit as city bosses seek to save almost £30 million next year.

A possible city-wide axing of public toilets has been branded “atrocious” by residents, who warned that the elderly and disabled would be among the worst affected.

Gilbert Wallace, 80, from Portobello, said: “What are the public supposed to do? Do they go down a side street or a lane?

“It’s absolutely terrible. Are people supposed to go into a restaurant or hotel where there are toilets? Public toilets now are in a bad state.”

City chiefs have outlined a number of measures aimed at offsetting any closures, including a “community toilet scheme” which would see high street businesses open their doors to pedestrians caught short.

But the council has come under fire from union chiefs for not being clearer about the true scale of the budget reduction in its 2015-16 consultation.

A spokesman for Unite’s City of Edinburgh Council branch said: “We are concerned that the way the figures are published in the draft budget is misleading to the public and therefore will misinform public debate.

“In our view safe, good quality, well resourced and well maintained public conveniences are a yardstick of civilisation. Our members work exceptionally hard trying to maintain a modicum of decency to the creaking, outdated infrastructure.

“They openly acknowledge what they have to work with is very poor in some places.”

Jason Rust, Conservative councillor for Colinton and Fairmilehead, said: “It’s a cause for concern if there’s a view that facilities in the city centre are being safeguarded while those outwith are effectively being left or closed.”

Council chiefs stressed the precise number of closures was still to be determined.

A spokeswoman said: “A city-wide review of public toilets is currently under way, which looks to reduce the costs of providing public conveniences while ensuring that there is sufficient provision for visitors and residents at key locations in the city.

“Draft budget proposals aiming to make further savings and looking at alternative options are still under consultation. No decisions will be made until we have carefully considered all of the feedback we receive.”

johnpaul.holden@edinburghnews.com