PUBLIC loos in Edinburgh city centre could charge 20p per visit to fund a major refurbishment planned for next year.
Six toilets – Castle Hill, Castle Terrace, Hunter Square, The Mound, Nicholson Square, and Ross Band Stand – would undergo a £600,000 revamp if the move gets the go-ahead in February.
Environment chiefs would borrow the funds and pay back the cost of the work with cash generated from the 20p charge, which would bring in £216,000 per year.
The council currently spends £2.3 million maintaining and repairing the 29 public toilets every year, with many in poor condition.
Edinburgh City Council wants to improve facilities for tourists and residents and find a way to plug rising costs. Lesley Hinds, the city’s transport and environment leader, said: “These are proposals which we believe are worth considering. This would allow us to invest in city centre facilities, which are used by residents and tourists.
“The public may well consider a 20p charge reasonable, especially in return for a better service.”
The cost of running public conveniences has become an issue for many councils in recent years, with Edinburgh last year indicating it would shut all due to their poor condition, although it later reversed the move.
It had come up with a plan for a network of pubs and coffee shops which would agree to let the public use their loos for free, but the move proved unpopular and was dropped earlier this year.
In September, Amber Valley Borough Council in Derbyshire voted to close its ten facilities to save £50,000 a year.
North Somerset Council is also considering closing its 29 loos, including the ones in Bristol, some of which have attendants and are open 24-hours per day, in an attempt to save £400,000.
DEALING WITH THE SHORTFALL
EDINBURGH City Council is facing a relatively small shortfall of £10.8 million for April 2013 to April 2014.
The actual amount it needs to cut from its existing annual budget is £3.9m.
However, council chiefs will set aside another £6.8m to deal with demographic pressures resulting from an ageing population, along with a rise in the number of homeless people, and rise on the number of young people with complex needs.
Despite the shortfall, £10.8m is regarded as managable and previous years have totalled tens of millions.
The city has a £1 billion revenue budget and another £152m for projects such as the 21st Century Homes building project in Muirhouse, Pilton and Pennywell, in areas of north Edinburgh, and Sighthill in west Edinburgh.
However, there are considerable cuts to come.
The local authority, currently led by a Labour and SNP ‘Capital Coalition’, must reduce its annual spend by an estimated £95m by the 2017-18 financial year which has been described as “daunting” by key figures.