Sunderland public toilets could close in bid to save council thousands

Closing public toilets could save Sunderland City Council thousands.
Closing public toilets could save Sunderland City Council thousands.

Some public toilets in Sunderland could face closure as part of budget proposals by cash-strapped council bosses.

Last month, Sunderland City Council revealed a “pay to pee” scheme which could see charges rolled out across public toliets in the city.

The public toilets at Marine Walk, Roker Beach, would not close.

The public toilets at Marine Walk, Roker Beach, would not close.

The revenue proposal aims to save around £155,000 as the council faces a £12million cut in service spending next year.

Councillors have heard that the possibility of closing select public toilets was still on the table, with the council aiming to collect useage figures.

This includes an infrared “clicker” – a beam which is broken every time someone passes – to help provide a clearer picture of footfall.

Read more: Backlash against plans to charge for public toilets in Sunderland

Head of place management at Sunderland City Council, Mark Speed, revealed details on the proposals at the authority’s Scrutiny Co-ordinating Committee this week.

“The proposal that we initially put forward was around shutting down public toilets because as you know some of them are not in brilliant states at all and we’re struggling to maintain and clean them,” he told councillors at Sunderland Civic Centre.

“We all know public toilets aren’t necessarily used for what they were designed to be used for, they’re not necessarily places where residents are going there and feeling safe.

“In this budget report it says introduce charges across the board, what we’re going to do is a review of those facilities.”

He added: “What we’re looking to do is to shut down some of the facilities or to introduce a charge.

“What I will say about this is that it has not been taken lightly.”

The council has a portfolio of 11 public toilets of which 10 are actively used.

It is not clear which public toliets would be sidelined for closure if the “pay to pee” scheme is dropped at a later stage.

Coun Niall Hodson, raised concerns about the “negative public perception” of  charges potentially limiting access for disabled people and pregnant women.

“I would be curious to know what our fall back is on issues like this and what we can do to protect these people,” he said.

Mark Speed, responding, said environmental services has limited ability to make savings as many services are “income generators”.

He added: “There’s no intention of us shutting down the (toliet) that has just been developed in Roker but that’s not just a toilet its a cleaning facility for people who potentially need a site they can be taken to by carers or other people they’re with.

“We haven’t put (charges) forward before, this is what we’re down to in terms to trying to either make income or to do something around getting the budget down.

“You have seen the (budget) pressures and the totals we’re talking about so we will monitor this very carefully.”

Committee chairman, Dianne Snowdon added: “These are concerns that are shared by every single councillor around this table.

“None of us came into being councillors to have to pass budgets where we’re cutting these vital services.

“I know these issues have been spoken about in detail in the past and to other scrutiny committees.

“It’s something we have been aware of for a long long time.”

The proposals are subject to further details in the government’s financial settlement this month.

Firmer proposals are set to be made in the new year, in line with the final budget in March 2019.

Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service