Charging for toilets is an issue being faced by many Councils at the moment. With budget cuts year on year, it has become even more important to raise revenue from all potential sources.
Most people will say that they are happy to pay for clean and safe public toilets and the generally accepted rate is 20p in the country and 40p - 50p in urban contexts. However, when you install a charging system to toilets, you should expect a reduction of around 40% in the number of locals using the toilet as they will find alternative provision. The visitors to your town or city will generally be happy to pay as long as the facilities are clean and well maintained.
REVENUEWe would expect a set of four busy semi-automatic toilets to have 50,000 uses per annum, equating to £10,000 of revenue. This will represent about two thirds of the actual cost of running the toilet (including utilites, consumables, cleaning, maintenance etc). This level of usage will only happen in a busy location with a high number of visitors to a town. (One paradox of higher numbers is that users tend to hold the door open for one another and hence can lower the revenue in really busy times).
A typical attended facility costs around £60,000 per annum to run and therefore needs 300,000 users at 20p to break even. This is highly possible in a busy tourist destination, but most smaller towns will not cover the costs.
ALTERNATIVE TO STRAIGHT CHARGINGNot all Councils want to go down the charging route for a variety of reasons. One half way house is to introduce tokens, whether physical or electronic, as well as coin entry into toilets. The tokens are given to local residents but not to visitors, and are effectively free. Other card based entry systems can also be catered for.
This way, the hard pressed rate payer does not ‘pay twice’ for a public service.
CONTACTLESSA very popular option is to fit contactless payment systems to one or more of the cubicles. This allows users to access the toilet without the need for coins and effectively removes any pressure to have a change machine on a location.
SECURITYA charge will reduce the amount of casual vandalism sustained by a toilet. 20p will not put off a determined drug taker or graffiti artist, but it will reduce the number of school children hanging around a toilet and causing trouble.
Be mindful though, that if you charge too much (£1 and above), the toilet becomes a no go area for everybody except the drug pushers themselves.