A SUGGESTION has been made that people using public toilets in East Lothian could have to pay if they want to spend a penny.

East Lothian Council is weighing up a variety of ways to raise money to ensure it can continue to fund a number of public services.

Among those, according to Dunbar and East Linton ward councillor Norman Hampshire, is the suggestion that members of the public pay to use public toilets across the county’s towns.

But East Lothian Council has denied that charges are being considered, although changes to opening hours have already come into force and will run until the end of September.

Mr Hampshire, the council’s spokesman for environment, spoke at Dunbar Community Council last Monday evening about the idea of charging.

He said: “The council is looking at every way they can to keep every public convenience open that we have got.

“This could involve charging at the main town centre conveniences.

“There are systems where there is just a donation box and if people think there has been a good service they can put a donation in. Other places have ‘turn barriers’ where you pay to go in.”

Neighbouring Scottish Borders Council charges 30p for people wanting to use 27 of its facilities.

A report to Scottish Borders Council in June last year highlighted that the scheme had brought in £89,000 – well down on the projected income.

Mr Hampshire stressed that the system was not flawless and there were difficulties if ‘pay barriers’ were broken.

However, he added: “We would prefer to keep every single one [public convenience] open.

“There is a real pressure to keep them open with the money that is available.”

East Lothian Council is responsible for 30 toilets across the county. The suggestion of charging comes in the wake of the local authority confirming that it had cut the opening hours of 22 of its public toilets.

Previously, all toilets closed at 8pm but that has changed, with only the eight coastal toilets at Fisherrow Harbour, Musselburgh; Quality Street, North Berwick; Yellowcraig; Gullane Bents; Longniddry Bents one, two and three; and John Muir Country Park, near West Barns remaining open until that time throughout the summer and the remaining 22 closing at 6pm.

A spokeswoman for East Lothian Council said: “The changes to the opening hours will enable us to keep all of our toilets open in a challenging climate where we face reductions across our budgets.

“We are aware that other council areas have closed many and in some cases all of their public toilets, whereas our toilets continue to remain open seven days a week and are free for users.

“During the summer months, 22 toilets will close at 6pm rather than 8pm; however, coastal car park public toilets will continue to operate until 8pm.

“These changes ensure public toilets continue to be available to the people of East Lothian and the many visitors that use them.”