PARISH and town councils in West Devon will have to pay for public toilets from next April or see them close down, West Devon Borough Council has decided.

At a meeting of the West Devon Hub Committee on Tuesday, councillors voted seven to two in favour of asking parish and town councils across the borough to shoulder the financial burden of public loos.

They are asking them to either take over running public conveniences themselves or pay the costs for the borough to manage them.

The move will save £50,000 from the borough council’s public toilets budget for the next financial year.

The motion was carried despite some councillors’ misgivings about the high costs which would be shouldered by the smaller parishes.

Councillor Caroline Mott (Bridestowe) called the requirement of parishes to start paying 75% of the cost the facilities themselves in the next financial year ‘draconian’.

‘I’m uncomfortable with the wording, because it seems very black and white, there doesn’t seem to be any room for negotiation.

‘I would like to see a bit of wiggle room in this and I’m not seeing any.’

She said in Lydford, which she represents, households were looking at a 49% increase on their parish precept to pay the cost of looking after their loos.

Councillor Chris Edmonds (Tamarside) also had concerns. ‘For some parishes, 75% looks challenging. I would say that starting at 50% we are working together, but 75% is like we are imposing on the parishes. We are setting the bar too high.’

Annabel Roberts (Dartmoor) said that Dartmoor Forest Parish Council would be seeing a 73% increase in their parish precept to meet the costs of looking after their toilets. ‘In a parish of just 730 electors it is obviously a very difficult situation.’

Cllr Mott put forward a motion for parishes to start with taking on 50% of the costs of their toilets, rising to 100% gradually over four years. However her motion was defeated, four for and five against.

The meeting was considering a report on discussions held with parish and town councillors, led by the council’s Environment lead, Councillor Robert Sampson. He said that ’with one exception, the responses from town and parish councils have been understanding’.

He said that discussion would continue with the parishes affected.

In Okehampton, discussions have taken place with Okehampton Town Council, the report revealed.

The town council is proposing to take over responsibility for the Fairplace toilets, with the Market Street toilets to close at the start of the next financial year.

Detailed discussions are due to take place between the borough council and Tavistock Town Council in November to decide the fate of the town’s loos.