A question of convenience for London's businesses

London mayor Boris Johnson wants businesses to solve the capital's chronic lack of public toilets. Seriously.

Last Updated: 27 Sep 2010

The London Mayor wants businesses to sign up to the Community Toilet Scheme, which involves them opening up their toilets to the general public in exchange for a fee from their local borough council. If Boris gets his way, it could mean a whole new set of people doing their business in your office building…

You can understand the Mayor’s predicament. The number of public toilets in London has apparently fallen by 75% in the last 12 years to just 419, which equates to one per 18,000 inhabitants – or one per 67,000 if you take all the city’s visitors into account. Boris reckons this is discouraging people – particularly the elderly and those with young kids – from going out in London (and that’s not to mention the potential sanitary consequences).

‘Everyone should be able to go out and enjoy this great city without worrying about the location of the nearest accessible public toilet,’ proclaimed Boris today. And until the government pulls its finger out and provides more funds for local amenities, he thinks businesses should step into the breach. ‘The Community Toilet Scheme is a common-sense and cost-effective solution to the lack of public toilets in London. It is also an ingenious way around the high costs normally associated with running them’.

And the scheme does appear to work. It’s already been successfully piloted in Richmond, where about 75 businesses (mostly shops, restaurants and bars) have signed up, getting £600 a year for their troubles. Other councils around the UK have been looking on admiringly, while age concern groups have also hailed the move. So you can see why Boris wants all the London boroughs to get involved (plus it’s tailor-made for our favourite local government service, Westminster Council’s brilliantly-named SatLav, which allows you to get the location of your most convenient convenience by text).

Nonetheless, despite its myriad benefits, we’ll be interested to see how popular the scheme proves to be if and when Boris persuades the other boroughs to follow suit. We’ve no doubt that various retailers and hostelries will jump at the £600 fee, given the current state of their finances (particularly for something they effectively do anyway). But will the effects of the credit crunch also compel the City’s finest to open their gleaming skyscrapers to the great unwashed? Somehow we doubt it...

In today's bulletin:
Bank fails to douse recession fears
Move the Scousers on, says Tory think tank  
Editor's blog: The price isn't right  
A question of convenience for London's businesses  
A new recipe for team-building success? 

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