How much does it cost to change a light bulb in a public toilet in Devon? Apparently, £30 is the answer. A report on cost-cutting by North Devon Council has revealed that 69 bulbs were replaced last year at a total cost of £2070. This year, 14 bulbs were changed at a cost of £420.
The lower number is being heralded as a success as the toilet bulbs are being steadily replaced by longer-lasting LED lights. When asked to explain the cost of changing light bulbs, the council’s executive member for the environment said ‘Putting them in is not the question, it is the purchasing and driving to and fro. You could be travelling 49 miles to replace some of them. North Devon is a very widespread area.’
A record was also made of the number of flushes at public toilets in order to decide whether the council can shut them over the winter period. It has already cut the number of functioning loos from 72 but is determined to replace some with more up to date toilet blocks.
The total cost of maintaining North Devon’s public loos has been reduced from £510,00 in 2009 to £374,000 in 2012 but this is due the controversial measure of closing many of them. ‘We have a duty to provide value for money and an efficient service, but there is still some way to go,’ said the councillor in charge.
Attempts to close public toilets in Bath and North-East Somerset have met with resistance from local groups.
‘These are quite little toilets that don't look like they are being used much,’ says one protest organiser, ‘but in fact the strength of feeling in the community is profound. I have been approached by many people saying how much they need the toilets and how difficult life would be without them and how they would stay away from Larkhall.’ They fear this could have a negative effect on the area’s shops as fewer visitors return.
Many residents in small communities consider these public loos a fundamental part of their council services and do not want them shutting down. The council likes to show it is attempting to cost-cut but is not really getting to grips with reducing its own bloated bureaucracy.