Birmingham is flushing away its reputation as Britain’s second city by failing to provide enough public toilets, a House of Commons inquiry has warned.
By refusing to provide enough loos, the city is discriminating against elderly people, the MPs said.
The warning was issued by the Communities and Local Government Committee, in a report on public toilets across the country.
Birmingham, Cardiff, Liverpool and Edinburgh were named as the cities with the worst public convenience provision.
The MPs, who included Nuneaton MP Bill Olner (Lab), based their findings on evidence from the British Toilet Association, which campaigns for better toilets across the country.
In a memo to the inquiry, the association complained: “Birmingham, Britain’s Second City, has only a few automatic public conveniences throughout the city centre.” At the moment, local councils have the power to provide loos – but are under no obligation to do so.
But MPs said the law should change, so that councils had a legal duty to draw up a toilet strategy. They said: “Lack of public toilets results in certain groups feeling anxious about going out. Older people, for example, do not readily leave their homes without the reassurance that they will have access to public toilets, which can lead to ill-health, with consequent burdens on the NHS.” The first public toilets date back to 1852, and the Victorian era is considered the golden age of public conveniences.
But in recent decades, the number has declined dramatically in many parts of the country.
Lack of public toilets could have particularly unpleasant results for those people living near pubs, if drinkers used the street instead, the MPs warned.
They said: “Lavatory humour is rife in British culture, but the provision of public toilets is no laughing matter.”
“Public toilets matter to everybody, regardless of their age, class, ethnic origin, gender, mental ability or physical ability. They are even more important to certain sections of our society, including older people, disabled people, women, families with young children and tourists.”