Toilets and Libraries
Public toilets and public libraries are two of the foundations of a civilised society and they are both fast disappearing. Why? Because we are living in an age of austerity and toilets and libraries are easy targets.
People should be able to go to the toilet when they need to, free of charge. If they can't, they end up weeing in public, wetting themselves or not going out. Many older people, disabled people, people with medical conditions, do not venture out if they are worried about whether there will be toilets. So lack of proper provision can lead to increased social isolation - something which increases anxiety and poor health. It's about being clean and hygienic. It's about having dignity and privacy. It's about public health. It's a human right.
The lack of toilets impacts more on women because it is not so quick and easy for women to wee against a wall. They can't undress so easily, they can't wee standing up and are more likely to have problems of control after childbirth, meaning they can't wait.
If you have to find somewhere to go outdoors, you look bad, feel bad, possibly smell bad and you run the risk of being charged with an offence to boot. There is also the matter of preserving our streets and keeping them clean. Urine can damage the fabric of a building. Some cities, Chester and San Francisco to name two, use liquid repellent paint in many city corners to create a splash back effect.
Liverpool has lots of visitors. Some come for the football, some for the culture and some come for the drink. In 2008, Liverpool's year as Capital of Culture, there were approximately 10 million visitors to the city. Hundreds of thousands of people came to see La Princesse , the Giant Spider, alone. In its preparations for all those visitors, boosting the city's economy,. did Liverpool city Council increase its toilet provision? No. In 2007/2008, it sold 2 public toilets for £182,000. In the same year, the council was criticised by the House of Commons Select Committee for Communities and Local Government for its poor provision of public toilets. In response the Council said that there were lots of toilets where people could go: supermarkets, bars, cafés, restaurants, galleries. But there aren't many supermarkets in the city centre and not all supermarkets have toilets. Department stores usually have their toilets on the top floor. Many places do not like non-customers using their loos. Some people may be daunted by going into a bar or they may be too young. Other places are not always open.
Excess consumption of alcohol is probably behind most cases of public urination and any campaign for increased toilet provision has to take this into account.
In 2016, a reply to a Freedom of Information request stated: [Liverpool City Council] " does not own or operate any public toilets".
Next week: The attack on public libraries