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Public toilets are closing at an alarming rate - there are 40% less now than a decade ago. This is making it difficult for families with children who suffer from continence problems to get out and about.

Responding to claims that high business rates were responsible for the closure of public toilets across the country, Prime Minister David Cameron told a local radio station in Cornwall that the concern about business rates affecting public toilets is a "very important issue"

Cameron added that although toilet closures sounded like a "fringe issue", high levels of tourism meant that toilet availability is a "really important issue".

He said "Of course, there is more that we can do – and I know that we will be looking at all these things.”

Public toilet numbers falling

According to the British Toilet Association, which works to promote the highest possible standards of hygiene and provision in all 'away from home' toilets, the number of council-run public lavatories has fallen from 12,000 to 6,000 in a decade.

Health and wellbeing

Raymond Martin, Managing Director of the British Toilet Association, called for the Government to offer financial support for councils to keep toilets open. He said "This is a public facility. People have to go to the toilet. We have to do five things in life – we have to eat, sleep, breathe, drink and we have to go to the toilet.

"Failure to go to the toilet we get sick, we get disorientated, we have high blood pressure, we can have strokes – this is a health and wellbeing issue. It is about equality, social inclusion and bringing more older people into town."

"The reason that toilets are closing is councils do not get any financial support from government to do it, so they have to sit down and look at costs."

Government needs to act

Derek Liddell, from the National Association of Local Councils, said that public toilets were "important for people with certain medical conditions, for older people, disabled people, pregnant mums and families with kids", arguing that "the Government needs to act now to help parish and town councils keep these all-important facilities open”.

Local authorities are not legally required to provide toilets, but they have discretionary powers to do so and to charge for their upkeep.

Budget cuts, tough choices

A spokesman for the Local Government Association said "Councils are doing everything they can to keep public toilets open and this includes running community toilet schemes, which enable local businesses like pubs, restaurants and shops, to make more clean, safe and accessible toilets available to the public. However, with substantial reductions to their budgets, councils have had to make tough choices.”