Charges may be enforced in all public toilets across Yorkshire’s most popular seaside resort to counter Government funding cuts.
Private companies have been invited to submit bids to take over the management of toilets in Scarborough to help the borough council reduce its annual £750,000 bill.
But the move has sparked concerns from councillors over fears of rising charges, which could impact on the town’s elderly residents, as well as its vital tourism trade.
The deputy leader of the council’s Labour group, Coun Colin Challen, said: “My fear is that for a private operator to make a go of it and make a profit, they are going to charge as much as they can get away with. The council needs to save money and there is a lot of pressure – I appreciate that. But I suspect some of the toilets could even be closed if they are thought to be out of the way.
“Scarborough has a higher than average elderly population as a lot of people retire here. The elderly do need good access to conveniences. Also if tourists find they are going to have to pay 40p to spend a penny I think some people might find it a bit problematic and be put off from returning to the town.”
Six out of 10 toilets in the town are currently free and Coun Challen is concerned they could all face charges, or be shut altogether.
He said: “When people come to Scarborough they expect the best facilities, and of course that is our aim, but we have to balance that with the need to maintain accessibility. There is also the danger that some people, if they have to pay, would simply nip round the corner, so to speak. There is evidence in the harbour area that this already happens. I would like to see some toilets in strategic locations remain free, and the others should not have a higher charge than 20p.”
The issue was raised at a meeting of Scarborough Council’s Central Urban Area Committee last week.
Coun Eric Broadbent suggested if the new arrangements were put into force there should be provision for people to use toilets in pubs and other commercial premises, which he said was common practice in the US and Europe. “We have to explore all the avenues to ensure that Scarborough’s welcome extends to these necessary details,” he said.