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Caught short

January 24, 2018 8:57 AM
By Eleanor Rylance
Originally published by East Devon Liberal Democrats

At joint scrutiny and overview budget setting last week, we were asked to pass an item that included the words "examine other potential uses for public toilets".

Not unreasonably, E Devon Alliance's Cllr Cathy Gardner and LibDem Cllr Eleanor Rylance seized upon this nugget and asked many questions. We pointed out that public toilets benefit us *all*, and that in a touristic area with many older, disabled and young people, closing public toilets was a retrograde step, rolling back on 150 years of civilisation. Cllr Rylance pointed out that the public toilet programme begun in the 19th century was a response to a very real public health problem at the time, and that the results of public toilet closures are all too clear to see in many cities.

The Tories at the meeting, many of whom sit on neither the Scrutiny or the Overview committee and are therefore supposed to speak only at the discretion of the Chair, protested vigorously that no closures were planned. When Cllr Rylance asked how many other "potential uses" there could be for a working public toilet, there was actual barracking from those Tories, who clearly thought they were at Prime Minister's Questions rather than a local budget-setting exercise.

We feel very strongly that there can be no threat to public toilets- it would be a step back for civilisation. Charging at point of use carries its own problems and unfairly affects people with continence problems, and the parents of small children, as anybody who has taken a trip through Europe with a 4 year old with poor bladder control can testify (€1 every half-hour!!).

There was a follow-up article in the Sidmouth Herald (pictured below). Expect more in the press in coming months, and cherish your public facilities.

Sidmouth Herald article on public toilets