The city council is set to spend more than £1 million refurbishing the city’s public toilets.
A detailed report is being drawn up with details of how the money, which was identified and set aside earlier this year, will be spent. But it will mean a complete overhaul of around 12 of the busiest toilets and upgrading to all or the majority of the others to bring them up to a standard residents, tourists and businesses expect.
Councillor Gill Mitchell, chair of the city’s environment, transport and sustainability committee, said: “This huge investment will help transform our toilet facilities and ensure we’re providing loos that the city can be proud of.
“We’ve won many awards in the past for our public conveniences, but a refurbishment of our toilets is needed, and that’s what we’re planning.”
The money was set aside in this year’s budget, in February, and a full report outlining the details is expected to go before a council committee in June. It will mean toilets being brought up to modern day standards and part of the business plan could mean some, but not all, of the toilets becoming paid for loos.
If the plans are approved, any money generated through people paying will be channelled directly back into the upkeep of the new facilities.
The council opened its first paid for toilet near the i360 almost four years and it's proved successful. The council is also planning another as part of the Shelter Hall development.
Cllr Mitchell added: “We must remember this is taxpayer’s money and we will spend it wisely, and for the benefit of our residents and tourists.
“But a major and growing problem we must all work together to overcome is the amount of anti-social behaviour that takes place in our public toilets, and are working with our partners to address this issue.”
In recent months toilet attendants in some of the city’s loos have been the victims of violence, including one defenceless and terrified attendant being threatened by a drug user holding a needle, who warned, ‘if you try to stop me I’ll stab you in the head’.
Cllr Mitchell added: “Our attendants are there to keep the toilets clean, not to clear needles or deal with anti-social behaviour like this. They must be protected.”
The council’s toilets have come under scrutiny recently, but the council is also taking measures to address the complaints. This includes bringing in Ajay Spolia, a regional manager at Healthmatic, the council’s toilet maintenance contractor, to ensure the contract is being carried out correctly.
Healthmatic has extensive experience in managing public toilets including cleaning, maintenance and refurbishment, and works with 160 local authorities in the UK.
Mr Spolia said: “Over the next few weeks I’ll be concentrating solely on making sure the city’s toilets are clean and are kept clean, are in good working order and fit for purpose.
“We will also be carrying out site assessments and repairs to the facilities over the next few weeks, including repairing broken doors, locks, and deep cleansing sites.
“I’ll also be ensuring toilet attendants, especially at the Royal Pavilion and seafront facilities, are carrying out their jobs correctly, including cleaning the toilets thoroughly and regularly.”
The council’s contract with Healthmatic amounts to £676,000 per year and is due to last 10 years. There are 30 Healthmatic staff assigned to the contract.
The contract was awarded to Healthmatic through a tendering process after the previous contract with Wettons ended. The contract includes all aspects of managing the toilets including cleaning, maintenance and refurbishment.