Users to be charged 20p to use public toilets in Richmondshire

The public toilets in Muker.

Charges for using public loos and changes to the toilet cleaning arrangements in Richmondshire have been criticised.

Upper Dales councillor John Blackie has objected to plans by Richmondshire District Council to change the frequency of cleaning to public toilets.

In the future the toilets in Hawes will be cleaned twice a day for four days a week and once a day for the other three days in summer.

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In winter they will be cleaned once a day, four days week.

In Richmond Nuns Close car park, the toilets will be cleaned once per day for six days a week in summer and once a day for four days a week in winter.

Elsewhere, all public toilets will be cleaned once a day four days a week at all times of the year.

20p charges are also to be introduced with new door payments systems fitted to all the council’s public toilets at a cost of £78,000, except disabled toilets.

The decision was taken at the council’s corporate board meeting last week.

Cllr Blackie said the changes were being made despite the council being in a “luxurious” financial position with more than £2.5 million in reserves.

He added: “What organisation would put a charge on a previously free public toilet and then at the same time cut back drastically on the cleaning of those who have paid to use them.  It beggars belief.”

Cllr Blackie has also raised concerns that the street caretakers in Leyburn and Hawes will soon have to report to Richmond rather than work solely in the two towns.

He said: “The current street caretaker in Hawes and his colleague in Leyburn have been to see me, very unhappy, as they will be required to report to Richmond every day they are working, and if we are fortunate enough to have any of their attention on the day, they will then have to travel back to Hawes to undertake it.

“You might wonder whether any of this makes sense, and what a waste of money this new arrangement will be, unless it is part of a new regime designed to cut back even further the attention our street scene receives here from RDC.”

In response, Colin Dales, the council’s corporate director for operational services, said the cleaning regime has been reviewed and a new regime would be introduced in November.

He added that it aimed to strike the right balance between keeping the public toilets clean while operating within the resources available to the authority.

He added: “The new cleaning regime acknowledges where heavy usage is evident and will be kept under review.

“From the information available on previous cleaning regimes the new one does not represent a reduction in service, but a different kind of service more in tune with seasonal usage variations.”

Mr Dales said the decision to charge 20p per visit to each public toilet was being introduced in order to cover some of the costs of providing and maintaining public toilets.

He said: “Our 14 public toilets spread across the district cost approximately £130,000 per year – the income generated from charging will not fully cover this cost but will reduce the burden on the council’s budget and ensure continued provision.

“The council hopes residents and visitors appreciate that this is a relatively small price to pay for ensuring public toilet provision continues. Again, this is about providing services within a set funding envelope , striking the right balance between the two.

“Moving onto street cleansing, staff within the council’s street scene team have been fully consulted on the creation of a more responsive and generic service.

“This will lead to staff previously working within a set geographical patch working more widely as a generic team, ensuring an equal level of service across the whole district.

“The majority of staff have expressed a preference for this new way of working which will give us the flexibility to allocate street cleansing resources to where they are most needed in a structure and manageable way.”