Lifting the lid on the issue of toilets
A stink was caused after the Standard revealed Cotswold District Council had lost £17,000 last year on public toilets, with a barrage of critical comments made online about the facilities being unfit for use.
So this week reporter Laura Shack pulled on a pair of Marigolds and ventured into some of the district’s loos to sniff out the truth.
I HAVE to confess that it would take a pretty desperate moment for me to voluntarily enter a public toilet.
But with contracted cleaners Healthmatic Ltd paid more than £200,000 of taxpayers’ money each year to maintain 17 facilities across the district, I would expect a clean Cotswold loo if I did brave a visit.
Armed with a pair of rubber gloves, I ventured into two free toilet blocks in Tetbury, near The Chipping car park and the tourist information point, and two 20p charging blocks in Cirencester, at the Brewery car park and the Forum car park.
At first glance the toilets in Tetbury were welcoming, with colourful hanging baskets heaped outside by the Tetbury in Bloom team.
"The loos are only as clean as the last person that used them, We would like people to be more responsible."Wiltshire councillor and Healthmatic Ltd owner, Chuck Berry
But I entered with caution, taking heed of online comments by "Jessica Rabbit" who said: "Why would anyone in their right mind pay 20p to open a door to find soaking smelly floor, no toilet roll, faeces floating in the bowl, stained walls and a vile stench?"
A wall of stale urine odour greeted me at every toilet block. In Tetbury the majority of seats were clean but most bowls had someone else’s waste inside.
And in Cirencester the toilets seemed spotless on the surface but on a closer inspection I uncovered a build-up of grime underneath a seat, which indicated it had not been cleaned there for some time.
However in all toilets visited, flushes and taps worked, sinks and bins were clear, toilet rolls were stocked up and despite the rainy weather they were reassuringly dry on the floor.
Wiltshire councillor and Healthmatic Ltd owner Chuck Berry said toilets were visited at least three times a day by local cleaners and a large part of the problem was the users.
"The loos are only as clean as the last person that used them," he said. "We would like people to be more responsible."
Mr Berry said the most challenging toilets were the blocks at the Brewery and Forum car parks in Cirencester, which each rake in around £1,200 a month for the district council from customers.
While he welcomed constructive feedback, Mr Berry said he was offended by suggestions that his company had won the contract in 2006 because of his role as a Tory councillor.
"I didn’t know any of the councillors prior to gaining the contract and I was not sitting on the council then. There were three other bidders and my assumption would be that we were the least expensive," he said.
"These days councillors are squeaky clean. If you look at the 70s and 80s it was a cliquey organisation but accountability is so tight now I would be most surprised if anybody was dodgy and had not got caught."
Mr Berry has pledged to improve Healthmatic Ltd’s service in Cirencester by installing a device to monitor cleaning visits and a temporary feedback machine for customers.
He added that if users wished to make a complaint, a contact number could be found outside each toilet block.