Public loos could close in Portsmouth cost-cutting drive

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PUBLIC loos are under threat of closure as Portsmouth City Council looks to make £17m-worth of savings next year.

Councillors yesterday were shown forecasted budget savings for the year 2013/14 onwards at the meeting of the executive.

It comes as the council looks to tackle further government cuts to local authorities.

The council forecasts a total savings requirement of £19m by 2014/15, with a further savings requirement of £27m for 2015/16.

A chunk of that will be found with an annual £200,000 saving from the ‘rationalisation of public conveniences’.

City council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said the authority is looking at implementing a strategy to close the toilets.

He said: ‘We will look and try to come up with a strategy that looks to support tourism in the city, the main shopping centres and also the late-night economy.

‘We will look to start charging for the ones tourists use on the seafront where there are staff. If you don’t have staff there is no point in trying to charge because it doesn’t work.’

He added: ‘I am disappointed because local government has had to find more savings than other government departments.’

But Cllr Steve Wemyss, of the Portsmouth Conservative group, said closing public toilets is ‘inconsequential’ compared to other savings that need to be made.

He said: ‘They tinker around the edges rather than making the big savings needed.

‘They are making tsunami-sized savings that will inconvenience the public when they could be making bigger savings with no inconvenience to the public.’

Sheila Powell, of Portsmouth Pensioners’ Association, said: ‘It’s the wrong thing to do – there will be a lot of people affected by it.’

A city council spokesman said: ‘Potentially these savings could include closing a number of stand-alone public conveniences and charging for entry to a small number of toilets in tourist areas.

‘If the budget proposals are accepted these issues, including what conveniences would be closed, would be considered in more detail and finalised in a report presented to councillors in early 2013.’