Bring back the public lavatory: Ministers plan to make more loos available to the public

Last updated at 01:05 07 March 2008

A plan to boost the number of lavatories available to the public was unveiled today.

Guidance calling for 'community toilet schemes' is likely to see councils paying local businesses to let the public use their facilities.

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Ministers say the approach is cheaper than traditional council-run facilities and that businesses such as shops and bars will benefit from extra trade.

However, the number of public lavatories, which the British Toilet Association says has halved from 10,000 to 5,000 in a decade, is likely to drop further.

Councils will also be able to levy reasonable charges for use of toilets and urinals they own.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said clean and accessible public toilets were particularly important to disabled and older people and to families with young children.

The Conservatives, however, said the new guidance to councils signalled the beginning of the end for free public toilets by 'ripping' up the provisions of the Public Health Act which force councils to provide public conveniences free of charge.

They accused the Prime Minister of hypocrisy, claiming he was having new gents' toilets installed at Downing Street at taxpayers' expense.

Shadow local government spokesman Eric Pickles said: "Thanks to Labour's fiddled funding, town halls have already been forced into closing public lavatories. Now the public face the end of free public toilets.

"Yet this comes at a time when Labour's reckless licensing laws are putting more people on the streets at night after hours of drinking. I fear the result will be misery for local residents the next morning."

Mr Pickles said the Government had explicitly stated the new regulations will provide a 'valuable revenue stream' for town halls. He added: "This comes as Gordon Brown has recently submitted a secretive planning application to refurbish the gents loos in "the First Lord's Residence, at taxpayers' expense."

Tories said figures showed the number of public conveniences has fallen by 14 per cent under Labour.

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