Sunday 26 October 2008

The bladder leash

I see a House of Commons committee has rightly criticised local authorities for closing large numbers of public toilets, something the government seems happy simply to stand by and allow to happen. There was also an excellent leader on the subject in the Daily Telegraph.

Obviously beer drinkers will be well aware of the need for some relief after consuming a few pints, and I’m convinced that the declining expectation of being able to find a toilet when you need one is a factor in people, especially those in middle age and above, being more reluctant to go drinking outside the home. However, there is a more serious issue here. The average person needs to urinate about once every two to two and a half hours and many, such as the elderly, pregnant women and those with bladder or bowel conditions may need a toilet more frequently than that. If toilets are non-existent or hard to find, it greatly curtails people’s ability to venture outside the house, and effectively puts them on what has been described as a “bladder leash”.

A good example of this tendency is the recent announcement by Derby City Council that they are planning to close all but one of the public toilets in the city centre. The City of Manchester to its shame already has but a solitary conventional public toilet in the entire city centre, and that (near the Town Hall) well away from the main shopping centre *.

When local councils are still happily employing “five-a-day co-ordinators” and sending out glossy magazines promoting their “achievements” it is impossible to believe they can’t find the money to provide a few decent public bogs. All too often council officers seem keener to protect their own staff and empires than frontline services, and then blame cutbacks on the government.

This is a prime example of the eroding quality of life in modern Britain and something that needs to be urgently addressed.

* I am aware that Manchester also has four or five automated “superloos” in the city centre, but I really don’t regard these as an acceptable replacement for conventional toilets, and they certainly don’t adequately address the issue of providing male urinals.

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