South West Wales

Public toilets offered to community councils again

public toilets (generic)
Image caption The council will save £79,000 by not running the 28 facilities

All but five of Carmarthenshire's public toilets are again going to be offered to town and community councils as the county tries to save £79,000.

Only those at Llansteffan, Ferryside, Pendine, Burry Port and Cenarth will remain under county council control.

Councils taking over any of the 28 other toilets will be given £1,000 and not be charged business rates.

Ammanford's mayor said she sympathised with the county council but said going to the toilet was a basic need.

It is the second time that Carmartheshire has tried to hand over most of its public toilets.

"We first wrote to the town and community councils in September last year to ask if they would consider taking over the responsibility for public conveniences," said Coun Philip Hughes, executive board member for the environment.

"Of the 25, two were prepared to take over the responsibility providing we carried out some upgrading works or repairs, and a further five said they would consider it," he added.

Mr Hughes said that some of the councils had said they would consider taking over a toilet, but felt the payment being offered was too low, and they could not afford to pay the business rates.

"So we have decided to revise our offer and increase the one-off payment to £1,000 and cover the cost of the business rates permanently," he said.

He said the decision to invite others to manage the toilets was taken because the council had no statutory obligation to provide the service.

"Unfortunately, in these difficult financial times, the cost of operating these facilities just isn't sustainable," he said.

Richard Workman, director of technical services with Carmarthenshire council, said there had been an "increasing trend" for local communities to take over a greater responsibility for services such as public toilets.

"This can lead to a better quality of service, as it can be matched with the needs and expectations of the local community," he said.

The decision does not affect what the county calls its nine "superloos", which users pay 20p to use, and which are managed on behalf of the council by an external company called Danfo.

Two of the toilets being offered are in Ammanford, whose mayor Irena Hopkins said she appreciated the financial problems faced by the county council.

But she insisted that using the toilet was a "basic need".

"Some people find it very difficult, especially those who have a medical condition," she said.

"I know that you can go into shops, but some shops don't like you doing that.

"I'm not sure how they can overcome it, but this is a basic need for everybody, and I would have thought that (public toilets) would be the last thing to go," she said.

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