The leader of Caerphilly council has hit out against a new policy requiring Welsh local authorities to publish a ‘toilets strategy.’
Councils, while not legally required to provide public toilets, have been asked by Welsh Government to think ‘strategically’ about how residents can access public toilets.
All Welsh authorities are expected to publish their strategies by May 31, 2019.
But Councillor David Poole believes the policy “raises expectations” of the council amid pressures to save £15.6 million in 2019/2020.
Among the cuts proposed are the closure of public toilets in Caerphilly, Risca, Ystrad Mynach, and at bus stations in Blackwood and Bargoed.
“There seems to be no joined-up thinking from Welsh Government,” said Cllr Poole at a recent cabinet meeting.
“They come up with a strategy to raise expectations of the public for us to maintain the toilets we have. It’s flawed thinking.”
A needs assessment conducted in September drew 357 responses, with feedback feeding into a draft strategy setting out ways to increase public toilet provision.
Most consultees said there were too few facilities in the borough, with half saying existing locations were felt “unsafe”.
Wider public access to toilets in council-owned buildings such as libraries, sport centres and council officers could be considered as part of the strategy.
Interim chief executive Christina Harrhy said: “This is another example of demand increasing for services we provide at a time when our budgets are shrinking.
“Whilst we’ve been mindful to close some of our dedicated facilities, through alternative provision we can retain them – albeit in a different way.”
Toilet locations would be mapped on a mobile app, with stickers placed on the shopfronts of businesses willing to open their facilities to the public.
But a survey of local cafes found that only seven premises were willing to take part, while there was a “poor” response from national retailers.
Environmental health officer Ceri Edwards: “The scheme is voluntary and they can opt in at any time, so hopefully we can encourage more to get involved.”
The council may also consider using community infrastructure levy (CIL) funding to request public toilets on new planning developments.
The draft strategy will go out for a 12-week consultation from December.