Council installs meters to monitor toilet use

NORTH Somerset Council is monitoring how many people are spending a penny in public loos across the district.

The authority has installed counting devices in 28 toilets to see how many people use them, with the least popular ones expected to be closed if they cannot be transferred to parish councils or private businesses.

The Mercury reported earlier this year that the council hopes to save �400,000 by transferring its responsibilities for running toilets from 2013/14 to other authorities or businesses.

The devices, installed in the toilets in July, work through a beam which is activated by each person entering the toilet.

Saying he was concerned that the authority had not carried out consultation about the installation of the devices, district councillor John Crockford-Hawley said: “I didn’t realise the council had started counting users until I was contacted by a constituent who wondered if it were a prelude to closure.

“Councillors are getting thoroughly fed-up not being consulted by the executive. It’s the way the current administration operates.

“Having evacuated the coffers buying Castlewood and refurbishing the Town Hall, the executive is now straining to save spare pennies.

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“The seafront is a destination venue for both visitors and residents and it’s essential to provide and maintain civilised facilities in sufficient numbers to keep everyone comfortable.

“And the counters that have been installed are 4.5ft off the ground - clearly not positioned to count children as legitimate users.”

Adding that he was unsure the authority needed to monitor the numbers of people using toilets, he continued: “The public lavatory in Birnbeck Road is the only one between Sand Bay and the Winter Gardens.

“Is it really necessary to quantify popularity? I suggest every passer-by pops in for a pee - that’ll mess up the figures and might even encourage closed loos to be reopened.”

A council spokesman said the move was necessary ‘in order to gather accurate information as to how widely-used each facility is.’

She continued: “This exercise is being carried out over three months in order to allow for any seasonal variations with tourism. We hope the figures we collect as part of this will provide accurate details of which toilets are used the most, the least, and enable us to make any future decisions regarding public convenience provision.”