Leading politicians in Flintshire have called for shops and cafes to be given a reduction in their business rates if they choose to open their toilets to the public.
There are currently just four loos operated by the local authority in the county after eight were closed in recent years amid budget reductions and complaints about anti-social behaviour.
Since then, it has encouraged people to use existing toilets in council buildings, such as libraries and Connects Centres.
However, after holding a consultation on its Local Toilets Strategy, the council said it would also like to see more incentives provided by the Welsh Government for businesses to make their toilet facilities available. The suggestion was put forward at a meeting of the ruling Labour cabinet held today.
During proceedings at County Hall in Mold, Cllr Chris Bithell said he was concerned about the impact the lack of public toilets in Flintshire could have on people’s health.
He said: “One of the reasons local government was established in the first place in the 19th century was for public health to stop people urinating and defecating in the streets.
“We’re going backwards in time and the actions we take must be seen to be promoting our towns and here we are closing down toilets.
“I know the reasons why because of the shortage of funding that we have.
“I think the Welsh Government should help us to continue to provide these facilities for people in our towns and tourist centres.
“I know they did come up with a scheme offering owners of cafes £500 if they opened them and that went down like a damp squib because it went nowhere near covering the cost.”
The four facilities still run by the council include two toilets in Mold, one in Holywell and one in Talacre.
The director of the British Toilet Association has previously said the authority should do more to help people who are caught short.
It used to spend about £173,000 a year on maintaining public toilets, but officers claimed drug use and vandalism had led to some being closed.
During the meeting, chief executive Colin Everett said he would lobby officials in Cardiff for business rate incentives to be provided to companies in exchange for allowing members of the public to use their toilets. He said:
“We will always to try to get Welsh Government funding and help.
“They have been quite creative about non-domestic rate relief, but it’s a serious suggestion to them because it would be a minor reduction in revenue.
“I think it would be a welcome debate and we can take it forward through the Welsh Local Government Association.”
Cabinet members voted to approve the toilet strategy and to add a recommendation that the authority should lobby the government for businesses to be given rate relief.
By Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).