Stroud District Council cut the number of times it cleaned its toilets a month before closing the ones in Stroud town centre because of the danger of too many discarded needles.

The council stopped cleaning the district’s toilets as frequently in an effort to save £20,000 from its annual budget, the SNJ recently discovered, before closing the Bedford Street toilets out of the risk to public safety.

One of the original designers of the toilets has pointed out the cut would have meant drug paraphernalia could not have been cleaned up as often.

The council has today announced the toilets will reopen with new anti-drug measures on Monday after the SNJ pointed out the cut to cleaning earlier this week.

In July the council shut down all of the cubicles on the street, saying the toilets had become “a magnet for drug users”, and then shut those in the Subscription Rooms for the same reason later that month. 

Stroud News and Journal:

The Bedford Street toilets when they were closed in July 

The drug users were leaving dangerous paraphernalia like needles in the toilets, which made them unsafe to be used for the public, the council said.

It also stressed the closure was “temporary” and “not a cost-cutting measure”, a month after reducing its toilet cleaning budget. 

“If you reduce the frequency of cleans, obviously needles are going to be left about,” said Tim Mars, a member Stroud Civic Society who was part of the group that originally designed the Bedford Street toilets.

“This a known problem that other councils and their contractors just have to deal with, especially cities.”

“Toilets should be cleaned regularly, at least three to four times a day in some cases.”

The cut was part of a raft of “efficiency measures” rolled out by the council in June to make up for an overspend with its waste and recycling contractor, Ubico, which cleans the toilets.

This overspend is projected to reach over £750,000 by the end of this financial year.

After it closed the Bedford Street toilets, the council went to a multi-agency meeting to discuss the wider issue of anti-social behaviour in Stroud town, that also saw Stroud Police, MP David Drew, the county council, the town council, doctors, pharmacists and local businesses and charities attend.

Two attendees have told the SNJ that though the council and Ubico showed evidence of the drug paraphernalia in the toilets via photos, they were not told about the cut to toilet cleaning at the meeting.

The council reopened two of the cubicles in August after the meeting, removing signs that said “These toilets are closed until further notice due to antisocial behaviour issues”, but left the rest closed.

Stroud News and Journal:

Two of the cubicles were reopened in August

But all of the cubicles will be back open next week, with new “safety measures”.

The council has installed sharps bin for the safe disposal of needles on the outside wall of one of the toilets, heightened monitoring of CCTV in Bedford Street and increased patrols in the area by the police, PSCOs and SDC’s neighbourhood wardens.

The council has yet to confirm whether it is keeping the toilet cleaning cut in place.

Stroud News and Journal:

The sharp box installed on the side of the Bedford Street toilets

Aside from the cut to toilet cleaning, in June the district council also:

• Removed 11 hired vehicles from its waste fleet for a minimum of 12 months

• Decided not to replace a manager of the council’s maintenance workers

• Reduced the number of times it would cut grass in the district

• Halved the number of window cleans within its communal flats

• Altered the cleaning regime at its own headquarters in Ebley Mill

• Introduced a delivery charge for containers with the exception of food bins and new build properties

• Increased the subscription rate of its garden waste scheme

• Increased charges for its bulky waste scheme

Announcing the reopening of the toilets, Joanne Jordan, Stroud District Council’s acting head of paid service said: “The closure of the toilets was always a temporary measure while we assessed how best to keep the public and cleaners safe.

“We recognise that they are an important part of the viability of the town centre economy, and with Christmas coming up it’s even more important that they are fully open.”