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Public toilets under threat from funding cuts

WILTSHIRE Council has announced that it will no longer fund the upkeep of public toilets, and has set up a survey to ask people how they would like to see them run.

The council is being forced to make further budget cuts in the coming year, and it was recently revealed that public conveniences – which the authority does not have to provide – would have to be paid for by other councils, groups or organisations.

Closing toilet facilities has not been ruled out if no other organisation agrees to take them on. There are four public toilets in Melksham that would be affected; in the Market Place, Bath Road, Church Street, and the cemetery.

Mayor of Melksham, cllr Terri Welch said, “Maintaining the toilets is a tricky issue; I can appreciate Wiltshire Council’s need to cut funding and save money, but whoever was to take on the responsibility would need to have  that same funding to do so.

“Another suggestion was that businesses like cafes could open their toilets to the public, but we have to admit public toilets do cause problems, and businesses may not be able to deal with that.

“There are concerns about this because the facilities are a necessity for everyone in the town; they’re not a luxury that people choose to use – they are needed. I think they’re a valued service and people would be disappointed if they were taken away.”

The announcement came as the council revealed their online ‘Public conveniences survey’, which seeks people’s views on how the services should be provided in the future.

Brian Warwick, chair of Melksham Seniors 55+ Forum is optimistic about the change of ownership.

He said, “When I first heard about the proposals I was extremely angry knowing that they could have huge detrimental effect upon the quality of life of so many of our older and disabled people and even young children who often get caught short.

“Then, the more I thought it through the more I came round to considering whether a wider public consultation might in fact actually achieve far more good than sitting back and complaining. It may seem ironical, but I also wonder if this could be an excellent opportunity for all our towns and villages to consider ways of upgrading public WC facilities within our own communities.”

Wiltshire Council’s online survey says, “One of the services under review for 2015/16 is the public convenience service.  Councils do not have a statutory duty to provide public conveniences.

“Many town and parish councils already provide the public convenience service in their area. In some areas supermarkets and shops are open to the public to use, often with longer opening hours.

“The cost of providing the service, the cleaning, maintenance and repair as well as effects of vandalism and graffiti mean that Wiltshire Council can no longer fund the service.

“This will mean that certain facilities currently run by Wiltshire Council will be transferred, sold or given to other organisations or groups that may be able to run the facilities themselves. If this is unsuccessful these facilities will close.”

The survey is being held on Wiltshire Council’s website, and invites residents, councils and organisations to comment on how they think the service should be delivered in future.

To take part, visit www.wiltshire.gov.uk/publicconveniencessurvey