NO decisions have yet been made as to how West Devon Borough Council will make £50,000 of savings from its public conveniences budget, writes Daniel Clark.

The council needs to make savings of at least £50,000 and up to £180,000 a year on the ‘discretionary’ service due to the financial black hole it faces in the next five years.

The West Devon Hub Committee was presented with four options as to how to plug the hole in the budget — but instead of making a decision, it agreed to look to make efficiencies savings of at least £50,000 from the 2019/20 public convenience service budget.

Cllr Philip Sanders, leader of West Devon Borough Council, said: “Our aim is to reduce the overall cost of providing public conveniences and what we are saying is that a traditional council owned public toilet building might not always be the best way. Our aim is to work with communities to continue to offer toilets which the public have access to where they are needed.”

The savings in the budget will need to be achieved through a combination of pay on entry toilets, and community ownership, with closure of facilities as a last resort, a council spokesman said.

They added: “The dialogue with the town and parishes will now begin and no closure will take place without a decision by the full council.”

Cllr Robert Sampson added: “The council has to respond to significant budget challenges. We are working hard to find savings from the public toilet budget by exploring different options for delivering the service. Maintaining the right level of service in the right place in the right way is key.

“While no-one wants to see public toilets close, the running of the toilets has to be done in the most cost effective way. In some cases we find that the number of people using public toilets is reducing where alternative toilets are available, for instance near local supermarkets which have facilities.”

The four options that had been listed in a report to the Hub Committee were:

Option 1 — Close, or devolve to parish councils, six toilets at Brentor, Bedford Bridge at Horrabridge, Chagford, Hatherleigh, Lydford and Yelverton, to make savings of £63,053.

Option 2 — Close one public toilet in Market Street, Okehampton and Bedford car park in Tavistock, where other options are available, to make a saving of £75,324.

Option 3 — Close, or devolve to parish councils, six loos at Brentor, Bedford Bridge at Horrabridge, Chagford, Hatherleigh, Lydford and Yelverton, to make savings of £63,053, and pay on entry at car parks in Fairplace, Okehampton, Bedford car park, Guildhall Square and the bus station in Tavistock, and in Chagford and Yelverton to generate income of £22,000.

Option 4 — Close all public toilets as it is a discretionary service provided by the council to save much more than the target of £50,000.

The council currently spends £181,000, excluding salary costs, on its 12 public toilets.