Local Toilet Strategy
The current position
BBC research (opens in new tab) carried out in 2018 showed that Pembrokeshire County Council was the joint second highest provider of traditional public toilets in the UK (of those who responded). Second only to Highlands and Island Council, which has almost double the population and an area larger than the whole of Wales, and joint second with Gwynedd Council.
Through a contract with Danfo (UK) Ltd, we currently provide 68 traditional public toilets (three of these on behalf of the Trunk Road Agency). Of these:
- 53 have disabled facilities
- One has an adult changing place facility and
- 20 have baby changing facilities.
Opening times vary throughout these toilet blocks with some available 24/7, others with restricted daily opening hours (usually due to location/vandalism concerns) and 12 which closed during the winter period (due to significant reduction in usage during these months).
For details of all facilities managed by Pembrokeshire County Council please see Appendix A. An electronic map showing each facility can be found here: Public toilets map
In addition to those operated by Pembrokeshire County Council there are other providers of public toilets in the County including Town and Community Councils and other groups/organisations. Some private businesses whilst not advertising their facilities as public toilets, do allow the general public to use them without making a purchase.
There are challenges in having such a large and mostly old toilet stock. Some are in need of significant investment with limited budget available for this. Whilst we have made provisions for an investment pot through a proportion of the income from charging, this pot is being used as quickly as funding is allocated, with no additional PCC money set aside for cyclical upgrades. We are continuously searching for external funding to support with replacements/upgrades. This poses a future challenge which will increase as the buildings age and in particular we are likely to see significant funded required for structural work in the future.
Unfortunately toilets are also a magnet for anti-social behaviour including drug taking and vandalism. This often affects opening hours and in the past has resulted in temporary and permanent closures where damage has been significant and repeated.
How we have sustained provision
Unlike a lot of councils across the UK, we have managed to retain a large number of our facilities to date by combining a variety of funding sources.
Charging to use
We currently charge 40p at 12 of the highest footfall sites. Only two of these facilities currently generate enough income to cover the cost of providing them, the other 10 make a valuable contribution towards the running costs. All sites have the ability to pay via coins or cashless methods. Charging to use is only effective where the income generated exceeds the capital and revenue costs associated with the installation, maintenance and running costs of the charging units therefore it would not be practical for us to charge to use all our public toilets, this is continually reviewed. The price was increased from 20p in April 2019. This increase has allowed for a percentage of income to be used to develop an investment pot for upgrades/improvements.
Funded by or transferred to Town/Community Councils
10 facilities are currently managed and maintained through the PCC contract but the costs associated with this are either fully or partially covered by their associated Town/Community councils. Without this financial support, these facilities would be closed. Town/Community councils have chosen to raise the money from their precepts rather than lose the toilet provision in their locality.
In addition, five toilets have been transferred to Town/Community councils to run themselves with additional facilities currently going through the transfer process. This arrangement means the facilities can be kept open and allows control over cleaning regimes and opening times to best suit local demand.
Funding via car parking income
In March 2020, Cabinet agreed to support the funding of toilet provision through car parking charges. These charged can only be utilised for the funding of public toilets where those toilets are located in or adjacent to car parks. Providing income expectations are met, this sustainable model will secure 20 facilities into the future. The funding also covers a small amount of improvement works that fall outside of the current contract.
Funded by PCC
All other facilities (32 in total) are fully funded by PCC revenue budgets which are under severe pressure. The net cost to PCC is approximately £600,000 (variable depending on income levels).
Due to the financial situation the Council is facing both now and into the future, a decision was taken by Cabinet in February 2023 to seek alternative funding for any toilet which is fully funded by PCC, for example this could be through Town/Community Councils or other stakeholders such as Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority. It was agreed that if alternative funding is not identified and there are no other unique circumstances to consider then facilities will be closed (where we are legally able to). It was also agreed to use the Second Home Council Tax Premium to fund the contract cost of these toilets in 2023-24 whilst permanent arrangements are being made. Any toilet which is closed due to the above but predominantly serves the visitor economy will be temporarily retained until the outcome of any future decision on an introduction of a Visitor Levy, which could be utilised for toilet provision in the future.