Leading article: Public inconvenience

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The Independent Online

When Manchester announced that it intended to achieve necessary spending cuts by closing, among other things, all but one of the city's public lavatories, it looked as though the city council was merely accelerating the lamentable trend observed in so many of Britain's towns and cities, where the public convenience is fast becoming extinct.

If anything, though, the situation is worse than this. Manchester has already lost so many of its public toilets that "all but one" means, in actual fact, six.

In a country that once prided itself on its standards of public hygiene and sanitation, this is a scandalous state of affairs. Not only is it now hard to find anywhere to spend a penny, but the cost, in the unlikely event that you do, could be considerably closer to a pound. A scheme for shops and pubs to share their facilities has not really taken off – nor should private enterprise be relied upon here. The provision of clean and convenient public loos, for a modest charge or preferably free, is the hallmark of a civilised society and one that treats people, including visitors, with dignity. The Victorians knew this; some time in the last few years, the guardians of our towns and cities managed to forget.