PUBLIC toilets are closing at an alarming rate across Britain.

Over the past two decades the total number of public conveniences has slumped by more than a third, from 3,955 in 2000 to 2,414 in 2018.

Newcastle, home to nearly 300,000 people, has no council-run public toilets, while Manchester, with a population of 514,000 people, boasts only one.

Many of the remaining toilets have either been outsourced to private companies or the costs passed down to parish and town councils.

Tendring, by contrast,

still has 34 council-run toilets across the district.

Despite this, the authority recently pulled the chain on ten of its conveniences in a cost-cutting move.

During an impassioned debate at a recent meeting of the full council, leader Neil Stock said: “We have more toilets in this district than in any other district council anywhere in the country.

“We have closed some public toilets, some were not fit for purpose. They were disgusting, appalling and they were not being used as public conveniences for the proper purpose.

“We’ve gone down from 39 to 34, that is a slight reduction I would acknowledge, but the ones we’ve got are far better than they were before.”

Outspoken councillors say residents are feeling the strain, with some saying the issue extends far beyond basic use of a public convenience.

Harwich councillor Ivan Henderson said: “Isolation and loneliness have become serious issues. So serious that the Government has actually appointed a minister looking at that issue.

“When the elderly do go out they need public conveniences which are available to use. One of biggest causes elderly people’s deaths is isolation and loneliness - not being able to get out to the shops and meet people in the day.”

The debate, which saw a petition to reverse the closures narrowly dismissed, saw councillors plead for a change in policy.

Mike LeCornu, chairman of Tendring Pensioners Action Group, submitted the petition, and described the provision of public toilets as a “basic human right”.

Delyth Miles, councillor for Walton, said residents of the town had even had “accidents” due to being unable to access a public toilet.

“Not a week goes by when I’m not faced with issues raised by residents over the closure of the Mill Lane toilets in Walton,” she said.

“Quite a few accidents have happened, people are crying, distressed because they feel very embarrassed by what’s happened.”

Carlo Guglielmi, the council’s deputy leader and a supporter of the move to close the toilets, said: “It is unsustainable to run public conveniences when they are in a terrible state of disrepair and when they’re not used.”

Council bosses say they have saved £100,000 through closing the toilets.

In turn, the council has invested more than £200,000 in refurbishing facilities at The Quay, in Harwich, Rosemary Road, in Clacton and Promenade Way, in Brightlingsea.