Public toilets across the isle could be closed in favour of a ‘community loo’ scheme with local businesses or facilities transferred to town councils.
Thanet council is carrying out a review into the future of the isle’s public toilets as part of a bid to save £175,000 in its 2019-20 budget.
Councils are not required by law to provide the loos and continuing cuts to local authority funding have resulted in public toilets plunging by more than 600 across the country since 2010.
In 2010 Thanet council maintained 33 public toilets, dropping to 28 last year.
‘Advantage to businesses’
Cabinet member for Finance, Cllr Ian Gregory, said a community loo deal with local businesses has worked in other areas and will be considered for Thanet.
He said: “All across the country councils are coming up with different ways to deal with this, like in Kingston where businesses agree to let people come in and use the toilets for nothing. The advantage to businesses is that it gets people through the doors and many councils pay them around £1,000 a year for the inconvenience.
“It is the best way of providing toilets for the cheapest amount.
“This isn’t just about saving money by closing toilets, to make it work businesses would need to be paid.”
The scheme involves businesses putting a sticker or poster in their window to let people know the facilities are available for use. The council then has a monitoring procedure in place, which includes spot checks, and needs to provide extra provision when there are large public events being held.
The London borough of Richmond Upon Thames was the first authority to launch a community loo scheme in 2002, relaunching it in 2005 and now having a chain of 70 businesses onboard.
But the British Toilet Association says public toilets are important for health and hygiene, a growing elderly population and those affected by disabilities or other needs.
A spokesman said: “There are an increasing number of specialist user groups, whose lives are affected by the state of Britain’s public toilets. These include people with mental or physical disabilities and their carers; the infirm or elderly; people with babies or young children and people of all ages who are coping with a range of medical conditions.”
Cllr Gregory confirmed work on the review is already underway and council officers are “confident” that savings can be made.
Last month Cabinet members approved the sell-off of sites including closed public toilets in Beresford Gap, Birchington, Marina Road, Ramsgate, Minnis Bay, Birchington, Park Road, Margate, St Johns Cemetery, Margate and Albion Street, Broadstairs.
For the toilet at St Johns Cemetery preference will be given to a use that is related to bereavement. The Albion Street toilets will be transferred to Broadstairs and St Peters Town Council as part of their regeneration plans.
Land and toilets in Minster will transfer to Minster-in-Thanet Parish Council, which already looks after both sites.
The asset disposal plan is part of the coming budget which is yet to be passed after it was withdrawn from debate on Thursday (February 7).
The move came following discussions between Thanet council leader Bob Bayford and Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling. The budget proposals contain plans to ditch £500,000 funding to keep Ramsgate port in readiness for a ferry operation and axe a further £130,000, totalling £630,000 (or £730,000 in a full year) from Thanet council’s 2019/20 budget.
The vote on the budget was postponed to give the government more time to work out a Post Brexit resilience contract with Seaborne Freight which had won a £13.8 million deal to provide extra capacity on a yet to begin Ramsgate/Ostende route.
But that contract with Seaborne has now been axed, with the Department for Transport saying Seaborne would not reach its contractual requirements and the firm’s previously unrevealed backer Arklow Shipping pulling out of the deal.
A DfT spokewoman told Reuters that the government is in advanced talks “with a number of companies” to secure additional post Brexit freight capacity — including through the Port of Ramsgate.
It is not yet confirmed whether this move will now bring the budget vote back to council imminently.