Protesters including Lincoln’s MP gathered outside the city’s Westgate toilets on Thursday calling for the council to reverse its decision to close the loos.
Save Our Loos campaigner Fiona Purkiss, who runs Midas Arts in the Bailgate, was joined by up to 40 people calling on the authority to reopen the toilets. The City of Lincoln Council hopes to save around £86,000 a year by closing public toilets around the city.
The move has already been called in by opposition councillors and will be discussed at both full council and a select scrutiny committee next Tuesday and Wednesday respectively.
Fiona said she was “thrilled” so many people had turned up.
“It really is a good visual showing to the council that we mean business,” she said.
She said savings could be made through pay cuts to the council’s high earners.
She also questioned why the council could spend £4,500 sponsoring a Lincoln imp or building a mobile welfare unit for staff in its housing repairs team, when the money could be spent on the toilets.
Under the proposals:
- The authority will close the Victorian urinals at The Lawn, on Union Road and at Newport Arch
- Facilities at Lucy Tower and South Park will open for special events only
- Westgate car park’s toilets will only allow access via radar key, and during special events such as the Christmas Market, or Steampunk Festival
- The bus station facilities along with toilets on Tentercroft Street, Castle Square, Hartsholme Country Park and Boultham will remain open
- Sincil Street’s ladies toilet will be replaced with a new “modern, unisex” facility within plans to refurbish the Cornhill Market approved last week
Campaigners on Wednesday argued the toilets on Westgate were needed for both visitors, residents and pupils at the nearby school.
Chairman of the Lincoln Minster Townswomen’s Guild Ronwyn Preston said the closure would put visitors off coming back.
“I want our visitors to feel welcome in Lincoln and our local residents to be able to come out and safely and comfortably go round the shops, visit local amenities without having to worry about where they’re going to use the toilet,” she said.
The guild is calling on the provision of free public toilets to be made a statutory requirement by government and to get additional funding.
Lincoln MP Karl McCartney said he had been pushing the council to ensure facilities were open across the city.
“If you want businesses to come back in hospitality and tourism, you need the facilities open,” he said.
He said the council blaming government cuts was an “easy get-out” adding, if the council could buy the Travelodge in the city centre they could find the money for the toilets.
In response to the protest, City of Lincoln Council’s Portfolio Holder for Remarkable Place Councillor Bob Bushell said the decision was “made to save money following a decade of austerity and cost-cutting from central government.
“We simply no longer have the funds to continue running some of our services to the level we have done in previous years,” he said.
“With this in mind, we are making savings across a whole range of services to ensure we can balance our budgets this year and in coming years.”
He said he council had consulted, and pointed to the new toilets to be built at Central Market and those to stay open as “a spread across the city, uphill and in the city centre, that serves the needs of shoppers and tourists alike.”
However, he hit back at the claims over the Lincoln imp sponsorship, the hotel and the staff toilets.
He said the hotel was an “investment strategy”, was good for the local economy and provided a regular income to the council, though added it was still not enough to cover the financial needs of the authority.
Meanwhile the Imp, he said, helped to promote the town to tourists and visitors. He added that it was a “one-off payment” and far from the annual spend needed for the toilet.
The new toilet block he said was “basically a glorified caravan facility” to eat and use for rest for the works department as part of plans to focus their works in compass point areas of the city for three months at a time.