Spending a penny costs the council 16p a time
ANSWERING the call of nature at public toilets across North Somerset costs the council sixteen pence per visit, new figures have revealed.
Specialist counting devices have been fitted to all 29 public toilets across the district to ascertain how many people are using them.
The devices, which will be used for three months, come at the same time as cashstrapped North Somerset Council is looking to withdraw the £400,000 each year it spends on running public loos by April 2013.
Figures collected so far have revealed it costs the council an average of 16.5 pence each time a person uses a public loo.
In busier areas, such as Weston, where the toilets are more heavily used, this drops to around four pence per visit. But in other more rural areas, such as Winscombe, every visit to the public toilet costs the authority 50 pence.
The data collected from the toilet counters will be used to look at which public toilets are most visited.
Those which have a high useage will be offered to private contractors to run, who will charge a fee to the public to use them.
The authority will also speak to town and parish councils about the possibility of them taking over the remaining loos.
But if local councils fail to come up a rescue package some public toilets could close altogether.
Fourteen of the loos are in the north of the district while the remaining 15 are in the Weston-super-Mare and Worle areas.
Most of the loos open between 8am and 8pm while some are open 24 hours and others closed during the winter months. They are cleaned at least once a day with attendants on hand at our busier sites.
Now the council has fitted specialist devices in the toilets to check how many times a day the public conveniences are used.
North Somerset Council executive member for toilets, Councillor Peter Bryant, said: "We have fitted the counter devices to all our toilets to get an accurate picture of how often they are used
"Those which are heavily used will be offered to private contractors who will take over the running of them and charge a fee to use them to cover their costs.
"The others will be offered to town and parish councils who will be given them the opportunity to take them over and run them. However if the local councils decide not to take them on they will close.
"North Somerset Council has to make huge cuts and we can no longer afford to run public toilets.
"We are not being tight fisted but in light of the savings we have to make, we have to cut services."
Other towns and cities across the world – including London – have pay as you go loos on the streets.
The council, which has no statutory duty to provide public conveniences, has already closed seven public loos in Banwell, Backwell, Clevedon, Portishead, Uphill and Weston to cut costs.