Anger at Public Toilet policy
Andy Symons, the Labour candidate in the Clifton with Maidenway by-election has hit out at the Lib Dem / Independent coalition claiming that their policy on public toilets has put financial pressures on families, has made going to the loo a worry for some elderly people and has had a considerable impact on the disabled.
The Lib Dem / Independent run council has continued with a policy of charging for toilets, a policy introduced under the previous Tory administration. The Council has also replaced some existing toilet blocks with single, unisex cubicles and has closed other facilities. Toilet blocks at Corbyn Head and Preston Green are being sold for re-development.
The impact of the charging and replacement policy has been raised by residents in the Clifton with Maidenway ward where a by-election is being held on 6th May.
Andy Symons said, “Labour has been opposed to this policy from the start. It is another example of residents having to pay more and more in Council Tax whilst getting less and less for the money they have to pay. In the case of Public Toilets and other areas where the Council have introduced charges, residents are now having to pay a premium on top just to go to the loo.
If you are a young family with kids, going to the beach has now become a financial worry. For example, at Preston Beach, families now have to pay for parking and then if they need to use the toilet facilities it is 30p each time a member of the family needs to go. 30p might not seem a lot to those on the Council but to a young family who is trying to find low-cost entertainment during weekends and school holidays, it is an addition many simply cannot afford.
I have also had people approach us concerned at the reduced capacity of the replacement facilities. ‘Replacing two toilet blocks with four single cubicles at Preston is simply ridiculous and just leads to long queues’ one resident told me. ‘If the predictions of increased staycations this summer are correct, this will become a big problem for residents and tourists alike.’
I was told by one elderly couple that going to the toilet has become a considerable worry for them. They find the new charging mechanisms confusing and they are never sure if the door is locked behind them. They told me that the new toilets has put them off going to the beach and other parts of the Bay.
A similar story was told by a visually impaired member of the public who said whilst the single cubicles are more accessible for some disabled people, for him, the mechanisms are difficult to use. You cannot see if the toilet is in use and if the card does not work, you cannot read the machine to see what has gone wrong. Going to the toilet has become a nightmare for me. I never had a problem before.
Other disabled people have told me that there are now less disabled toilets that are accessible with the use of a Radar key. Another disabled couple told me that ‘every time they try to use the disabled toilet at Paignton Beach it is in use by families who cannot afford to pay 30p for every member of the family so they all go in together. They are forced to look for a cheaper option but that leaves us without access to a toilet.’
Another resident told me, ‘They simply do not like having to use Unisex toilets.’
On Sunday there were several posts on Facebook by people complaining that toilets were out of order or were not open until 9am. One resident posted, “We were told it would mean toilets would be open longer once the contract with Healthmatic came in but that simply has not happened. We know that the staff are doing their best and work hard to keep the toilets clean, but often the state of the cubicles leave a lot to be desired, but once you have paid your 30p you cannot afford to go out and try another one.”
Andy Symons said, “Listening to people in the last few days who have raised the issue of public toilets time and again, really makes me angry. This is exactly the types of issue where people feel their views are being ignored. We hear a lot about the Council’s high profile vanity projects but for most of us, it is the everyday things that need to be addressed. Simple things like being able to go to the loo without worrying about the cost or even how to get in. People want clean town centres, and if they have mobility issues, they want to be able to access the beach like everyone else.
These short term savings have a longer-term impact. People who cannot afford to pay for the loo simply find other places to relieve themselves. This then adds to health worries. The pandemic has emphasised how important basic hygiene is for all of us.
I am also really angry that people are being asked to pay more and more for services through increased Council Tax and new additional charges but in return, they are getting less and less.”