Privatisation of public toilets could cost council £2.8m

The council owned toilets at The Avenue, Lauder.
The council owned toilets at The Avenue, Lauder.

The privatisation of public toilets in the Borders could cost the council £2.6m over a ten year period. 

Last year, Scottish Borders Council voted to explore the privatisation of the region’s public toilet, which would see a third party managing and maintaining the local authority’s 41 toilets. 

That vote followed a damning report put to the council in June 2018 that showed the decision to charge for using public toilets has netted just a third of the income that Scottish Borders Council had hoped for.

The current 30p charge for using 27 of the council’s public toilets in the Borders was agreed by a full council meeting in February of that same year, following a report where officers assured members that charging for toilet provision would generate an income of £280,000 a year.

However, the report put to councillors in June estimated that the total yearly income would be just £89,000.

That analysis, put forth by neighbourhood services manager Jason Hedley, relied on anecdotal evidence to explain the shortcomings in income generation.

He wrote: “A significant body of anecdotal evidence around payment avoidance has been received and observed, including from elected members.

“This centres around tailgating (following the previous paying entrant into the facility), the ‘good Samaritan’ (people exiting the facility allowing free access by holding the entry door open), families paying one fee for multiple usage or antisocial behaviour, where people vandalise doors or wedge them open, allowing free access to all.”

Now, the local authority has published a tendering notice, which invites prospective third parties to outline their proposals for taking over the management of the region’s public toilets.

The council estimates that the value of any future contract would be £2.6m over a ten year period.  

The information gleaned from the tendering exercise will then be put to councillors, who will be asked to vote on whether to proceed with the privatisation. 

A Scottish Borders Council spokespman said: “As part of our ongoing public toilets review, and as agreed by councillors in June 2018, we are seeking to establish the potential cost to the council of these facilities being managed by a third party. 

“The estimated value outlined in the contract advert is the overall estimated cost over a ten year period.

“Following the completion of this tendering exercise a range of options will be put to councillors as part of the 2020/21 budget setting process.”

Interested parties have until September 30 to notify the council of their participation in the tendering process.