VOTE: Do you support the introduction of a 20p charge for public toilets to prevent their permanent closure?

Residents have expressed their outrage at the idea of being forced to pay 20p to spend a penny in Chichester – or face up to 13 public loos from being shut down for good.

These are just two of the options currently being brought to the table by Chichester District Council to achieve target savings.

The other three options on the cards are a shared partnership toilet scheme, making limited closures and using the loos as advertising spaces to generate income.

Natalie Prior, 20, of Chichester said: “What if the disabled or elderly need to use those toilets or if a woman needs to change her baby?”

Michael Southwell, 78, said: “It is wrong. They charge enough for tax and God knows what else.”

Iain Shepherd of the Chichester Chamber of Commerce and Industry said charging people would be a ‘penalty on the elderly’.

He added: “It is a service you would expect a council to provide as a fundamental basic requirement of life.

“It is all about the place if you like. What makes a place attractive to come and spend time and money in? Part of this is people having access to a toilet. A very high proportion of elderly people live in the district and often many of them need to use the toilets.

“I think actually this would be a penalty on them.”

Introduction of charges for public conveniences is one of a series of options being considered by councillors, which also include the possibility of permanently closing toilets other than in ‘selected tourist hotspots,’ to achieve target savings.

A council report admits, however, that charging could be a high-risk venture, because of the capital costs of setting up a scheme, arrangements for cash collection, and the prospect of reduced usage.

Decisions are expected to be taken soon by the council’s cabinet, but meanwhile a report released by the authority said the 2011-2012 budget for operating public toilets was £604,200.

An initial service review carried out in 2009-10 resolved to close four sites, and with other efficiencies this achieved savings of £72,000 a year.

A further £238,000 of savings needed to be identified through closures or alternative funding arrangements.