Worries for homeless over plans for card-only payments at public toilets

The public toilets in Greyhound Street, Nottingham
-Credit: (Image: Nottingham Post)

Concerns have been raised about the impact that charging people to use some of Nottingham's only free toilets will have on homeless people in the city. A Nottingham Labour councillor says the cuts being made in the city are "unacceptable" and that the end of free usage at the Greyhound Street public toilets will be a "big disadvantage" to many groups.

Several protests have been held against the plans, which the council estimates will generate £64,000 this financial year. As well as concerns about the price, which has not yet been confirmed, there are also worries about the fact that it will only be a card-based system.

A petition on the issue signed by more than 500 people was handed in to a meeting at the Council House on Monday (July 9) by Labour's Councillor Nick Raine. Councillor Raine said: "At the moment, we're making cuts that most people in here think are unacceptable.

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"I'm old enough to remember toilets in the market square. We've got an issue now where there are very few public toilets. There's an issue for a number of people, not least the elderly and disabled for whom going to Broad Marsh might be an issue.

"There's an issue for the homeless. I use contactless all the time, [they] wouldn't have access to that.

"Although I accept it's not a statutory requirement to the council, the fact there are no toilet facilities I think is a real disadvantage to a number of groups. Citizens are very concerned about that...I do think it's something we should seriously consider...and whether we can get any funding, sponsorship or whatever else it is to enable those toilets to stay open."

Councillor Sam Lux, the executive member for carbon reduction, leisure and culture at Nottingham City Council, suggested the policy will still be going ahead despite the local protest. Councillor Lux said: "Unfortunately, the council has no statutory duty to provide free public toilets and charging for them is the only way in which we can continue to keep them open.

"The maintenance upkeep of the toilets is expensive, in part due to a high rate of anti-social behaviour. There remain other free toilets in the city centre, such as Broad Marsh Car Park and Victoria Shopping Centre. The payment mechanism will be card-based, as a cash-based system would be more costly to implement."

Des Conway, a member of the Save our Services campaign group, expressed anger at the answers in the meeting, particularly on the fact that the council's leader said she will not be asking Keir Starmer for extra emergency funding this year to prevent measures such as charging for the Greyhound Street toilets.

Mr Conway said: "The [Save our Services] stall outside the Council House featured a last-minute push on our petition objecting to the council plans to introduce a card-only payment system at the Greyhound Street toilets, which provide a lifeline for key workers, bus drivers, street cleaners, those with health conditions, older citizens [and] homeless people. In his speech, Nick voiced a level of concern at the Labour leader's almost indifferent response to the emergency funding issue and we hope that the Labour group will voice their vocal opposition to this placid stance at their next internal meeting."