Shoppers may splash the cash, but can they spend a penny?

Shoppers may splash the cash as the shops reopen, but with fewer toilets available it may be harder to spend a penny.

A day out at the shops pre-lockdown would likely have involved lunch and the use of a restaurant’s facilities, but as eateries are still shut shoppers will be depending on public toilets.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it is not known whether people will descend on the shops “in a flood or a trickle”, so queues are possible at toilets that are open and subject to enhanced cleaning.

The Government has urged councils to open public toilets “wherever possible”, and while many have plans in place, there are also areas where facilities will not be available.

Public toilets in Birmingham are not expected to open until next month.

A spokeswoman for Birmingham City Council said: “The contractors are awaiting a delivery of PPE before we are able to open the toilets, which we expect to be open in July.”

Liverpool City Council said there will be a “limited number” of public toilets located at train stations and at Liverpool One’s Information Centre, adding that the number of people entering the toilets will also be limited.

The council also said the information centre toilets will be closed for short periods every hour for cleaning which will result in reduced capacity.

Westminster City Council said that with the exception of the Broadwick Street site in Soho, all public toilets are open and operating normally.

A spokesman said entrance fee charges have been temporarily suspended to ensure people can access toilets and washing facilities more easily, while additional staff have been deployed to monitor cleanliness standards and deter anti-social behaviour.

All public toilets will reopen in York with changes to the facilities including automatic flushes, automatic water and soap dispensers, replacing hand dryers with hand towels, and more regular and increased cleaning.

The council in York said clear guidance will be placed in toilets such as social distancing floor stickers, advice on how to wash hands or use hand santiser, and instructions on not touching surfaces or handles.

A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokeswoman said: “While decisions to reopen public toilets are for councils, we strongly encourage them to open wherever possible.

“We’ve published guidance to help them ensure facilities are safe where they are open including increasing cleaning of touch points.”

The safer public spaces guidance encourages owners and operators of public places to increase cleaning at touch points such as handrails and gates, and to ensure there are facilities available for people to maintain good hygiene.

A spokesman for the Local Government Association said: “Councils have been working hard to make sure high streets and town centres are safe for businesses and shoppers and implement measures to help communities and high streets transition to our new way of life.

“Social distancing looks set to play some part in our everyday lives for some time to come. Shop owners and businesses along with the public have a shared responsibility to follow the advice on social distancing.

“Councils will be taking individual local decisions about public toilets based on a risk assessment and whether social distancing measures can be maintained.”

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