Page last updated at 11:14 GMT, Tuesday, 14 July 2009 12:14 UK

MPs demand better public toilets

Toilets sign
Councils currently have no statutory duty to maintain public toilets

Local authorities should have a "statutory duty" to provide public toilets, the government has been urged.

Some 26 MPs have signed a House of Commons motion arguing that the closure of public lavatories in recent years has been damaging.

The cross-party group say older people, the disabled and those with young families have been most affected.

They want ministers to force councils to act and provide "the necessary resources to enable them to do so".

'Hugely damaging'

The MPs, led by the Lib Dem environment spokesman Tim Farron, are backing a campaign by the British Toilets Association (BTA) for better facilities.

Mr Farron said the fact councils were not compelled to provide toilets meant many areas - particularly in the countryside - faced a chronic lack of amenities.

"It's an issue for everybody - we all need to use the loo," he said.

"But in rural areas, where there are often large elderly populations and there aren't any public toilets from one mile to the next, it's particularly acute."

Mike Bone, director of the BTA, said the issue affected the quality of life of millions, and feared it would be made worse by the recession unless the government took action.

"When councils have to make spending cuts, what you find is that the first thing to go is public toilets," he said.

"But this can be hugely damaging to the elderly, people with certain illnesses and those with young children - some can't even leave the house."

Councils currently have no statutory obligation to maintain toilets and cannot charge for entry to them.

They are allowed to lease facilities to private companies who can charge for entry.

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