MORAY councillors today agreed to defer a decision on a controversial programme of proposed toilet closures.
The authority had originally announced plans to close a total of 13 public conveniences throughout the area as part of the council’s drive to cut its annual spending by £30million.
Community groups in Moray were notified of the proposed closures and offered the chance to take over the toilets themselves as part of the Community Asset Transfer process.
But today councillors agreed that no decision on toilet closures will be taken during the current financial year to allow more time to consider options for retaining at least some of the toilets earmarked for closure as part of the council’s budget savings.
The decision followed their analysis of the equalities impact assessment (EIA) completed in relation to the proposal.
Speaking after today’s meeting the council’s convener, Councillor Stewart Cree, said: “Following the assessment of affected groups it became clear that a very wide range of users, many of whom have special needs, would be affected by the toilet closures and that it would be very difficult for the council to mitigate the needs of these groups in an economic manner. Consequently, a decision has been made to defer the closures and look again at some means of retaining this provision, possibly through alternative funding.”
Councillors heard during the meeting that, following the council’s decision to focus its energies and resources on the economic development of Moray, the importance of public toilets in supporting the tourist industry had assumed new significance.
Councillor Allan Wright, the leader of the council, said: “Since our original budget proposals were put to the council in February this year, a cross-party group of councillors has been seeking to set the priorities of the council for the next four to ten years.
“During this process it became increasingly apparent that economic development must act as the driver towards our recovery and, on a number of occasions, the part that our public toilet network has to play in this was acknowledged.
“This has further informed our views on retaining the toilets, at least in the short term, and the council will be pursuing any opportunity to secure the longer-term future of public toilets in Moray.”
A council spokesman said: “Among the options that will be looked at in greater detail are the formation of an arms-length body to operate the toilets and the transfer of the toilets to a private operator.