Anger mounting over 30p charge to spend a penny

Hawick councillor Stuart Marshall outside the Common Haugh public toilets.
Hawick councillor Stuart Marshall outside the Common Haugh public toilets.

Anger at Scottish Borders Council’s introduction of a 30p charge for using public toilets in Hawick and other parts of the region is mounting.

The cash-strapped authority agreed to introduce the charge at 27 public conveniences across the region, including facilities at Howegate, Common Haugh and Volunteer Park in Hawick earlier this year.

A total of £200,000 was put aside to pay for the introduction of coin machines to enforce the changes, but it was only in recent weeks that the payment has come into force, leaving those desperate to answer calls of nature having to scrabble frantically around to find the right change.

And local councillors are now bearing the brunt of anger among those wishing to spend a penny about having to stump up 29p more than that proverbial sum.

Among those opposed to the charges were councillors Stuart Marshall and Watson McAteer, independent representatives for Hawick and Denholm and Hawick and Hermitage respectively.

Mr Marshall has pledged to continue to assess what impact the change is having, and he believes standards at toilet facilities must improve if the 30p charge is to justified.

He said: “It is no surprise that I am fielding complaints from angry members of the public who are now being charged 30p to use our public conveniences.

“Both Councillor McAteer and myself voted against these charges being imposed during the last council term.

“I find it difficult to accept that we have the biggest free car park in the Borders at Common Haugh and yet when people now alight from their cars and buses, they are required to find the correct coinage to use our public toilets.

“The Haugh car park is used for many public events during the year, and if we are now to charge the public to use these conveniences, then I would expect the level of service and indeed the condition of these toilets to improve greatly.

“There will be further reports coming from the council during the year.

“These charges are now in force and I will be happy to wait and see the contents of these reports, but there is one thing that is sure, if we are to charge for these facilities, then the public will quite rightly expect to see a much higher standard of service.”

Charging has not been introduced at 14 other public toilets, including Denholm’s, because they are not used often enough to justify it.