Doors close on automated toilets after £16 cost per flush exposed

Seven public conveniences in West Lothian will shut after councillors learned how expensive they were to operate.

Doors close on automated toilets in West Lothian after £16 cost per flush exposed iStock

Only four automated public toilets will remain open in West Lothian while seven more are to shut after councillors learned the most expensive to operate was costing £16 a flush.

West Lothian Council decided in its budget on Tuesday that those automated public conveniences which will stay include Livingston South railway station, Engine Lane in Bathgate, Broxburn and Linlithgow.

Two have already been retired, from Whitburn and East Calder. They are currently in storage.

Contracts on seven more will see their doors closed for good in Fauldhouse, West Calder, Armadale,  Bathgate’s railway station and  at Carmondean Eliburn and Craigshill in Livingston.

The latter – it was revealed by officials last month – was the most expensive place to flush.

The public convenience at the Mall in Craigshill cost the council almost £16 per use, it was so underused.

The contract for that site cost the council £27,725 for 2022 to 2023. Usage in 2018 to 2019 was just 1,543 flushes. That works out at £15.62 per customer flush.

People have been paying 30p to use the toilets.

The automated public conveniences cost the council between £24,000 and £29,000 a year per contract, making a total of £358,183 in the current financial year. Retaining four will see the council spending £113,000 a year on contracts – saving £245,000.

Officers argued most sites are underused. Only four of the 13 sites were used more than 5,000 times in 2018 to 2019 – Bathgate station and town centre, Linlithgow and Livingston South railway station. 

Usage required for the council to break even on its contract costs in each of the 13 facilites would be between 78,000 and 90,000 flushes a year.

Craigshill is the least used.  The contract for that site cost the council  £27,725 for 2022 to 2023. Usage in 2018 to 2019  was  just 1,543 flushes. That works out at £15.62 per customer flush.

Officers say that other existing facilities could be used in place of the automated toilets and proposed consultation with businesses and others that could act as “comfort partners”.

A report to councillors in the run up to the budget added: “Consultation will be undertaken with equality groups and communities in the 13 automated public conveniences areas as well as engaging with local businesses with regards to the comfort partner scheme.”

At the budget meeting financial officers confirmed that there would be no penalty charge for exiting the contracts.