Guide Public Toilet Review 2021

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4. Background

We need to modernise and update our public toilets with over £3million of capital investment. Look at where public toilets are and consider alternative uses for some sites to make the best use of what we have. We want the best modern loos in the right place, suitable for all, which will be clean hygienic and less costly to maintain.

There are 3 major issues with our public toilets in East Devon.

  1. There has been a lack of investment in and refurbishment of our public toilets over the years. The majority of these facilities are now difficult to maintain, to clean and many require major improvement works.
  2. The recent public health emergency has highlighted that our facilities are very difficult to maintain to the new high standard of cleanliness and hygiene that users now expect.
  3. There is an increasing funding gap between our income and the day-to-day running costs of this service. This means for EDDC to continue to provide the services and facilities residents and visitors expect and require we need to review our current practices and adopt new ways of working.

East Devon District Council has always been keen to invest in its services to improve service delivery, achieve efficiencies and reduce running costs. Our recent investments have included a modern fleet of recycling and waste trucks and a subsequent change in the way we collect recycling and waste, to increase recycling and reduce residual collections to every 3 weeks. Many thought this was controversial at the time, and yet our communities rose to the challenge. Through this investment and planning we have increased our recycling rates, no waste to landfill, and kept our running costs down to become one of the top 10 recycling districts in the country.

We wanted to also carry out a similar exercise with a substantial capital investment in our public toilets, but with a plan to reduce our annual running costs to help meet our reductions of income. We ran a consultation to find out what residents, businesses, organisations, town and parish councils consider is important to them.

We cannot afford to maintain our current service, and here is why; East Devon District Council has always strived to deliver good quality services and facilities for its residents and visitors. This has been done whilst always setting a balanced budget. However, successive reductions in central government funding over the last 10 years has made this increasingly difficult. By 2022, we expect to face a £3m funding gap unless we change the way we operate.
Financial challenge.

This funding gap will impact on the services we offer. In 2019 £473,000 was spent on directly running the public convenience service. This provided 30 public toilet sites, 26 owned and operated by the council and 4 maintained for others. It amounts to an average of £15,766 a year to look after each toilet block, this includes the maintenance of the toilets and providing water, toilet rolls, cleaning them twice a day and management costs.

You can find out more about other costs such as depreciation of the capital assets and recharges in our Cabinet report.

We know that our residents expect high quality clean public toilets, and these have an important role to play in our visitor economy. However, we cannot afford to keep providing them as we currently do, unless significant savings are made. We also need to think about making the best financial use of our sites so we can continue to provide good quality public toilets into the future. An example of this would be the repurposing of the current location for alternative use such as a cafe with a public toilet being provided as part of this.