ANY cut in provision at the customer services centre in Langholm town hall will isolate and penalise elderly and vulnerable people.
That was the message from John Galloway, Langholm, Ewes and Westerkirk community council during a public discussion about the centre.
Dumfries and Galloway Council agreed during its budget-setting process in February to create five customer hubs – in Dumfries, Stranraer, Castle Douglas, Annan and Gretna – and 19 access points, including Langholm and Lockerbie.
The changes would be introduced in 2021/22 so the council is undertaking a pre-consultation period to gather views before implementing a formal consultation.
The council also agreed, when setting its budget, to review public toilets, of which there are two in Langholm: the Kilngreen and Parliament Square.
It is keen for either a community group to take on and run the toilets or for businesses in the town to open their toilets to the public.
During last Wednesday’s discussion James Cox, customer services manager, said the access point would offer the library service, public access computers, registration, reporting potholes and faulty streetlights, some revenue and benefit services and signposting to other council services and partner organisations.
Mr Galloway said: “Most customers would be elderly or not have the mobility to get to a hub. There is no direct public transport link but there is one between Annan and Gretna.
“You’re isolating people from a service which is crucial to them. I could understand it if there were good transport links but you know there isn’t.
“I don’t see why there should be any further reduction in the level of service in this town. They are essential services and, currently, include the post office.”
Mr Galloway also said the opening hours were reduced to 16 when the library moved in.
He added: “You need to be very wary of reducing what is here at the moment. You would isolate and penalise people.”
Mr Cox acknowledged the points being made and said he would take them into consideration.
He said survey forms would be available soon in the town hall for people to fill in.
Nicola Simpson led the discussion on the toilets and said that earlier that day she had sat in her car at the Kilngreen and saw the loos being used 17 times in 45 minutes, including by delivery and lorry drivers.
The council had a budget of £442,109 for 58 toilets. It wanted to reduce the budget by £20,000 this year and £108,000 next year.
She said: “We’re assessing their condition and accessibility. We’re consulting other councils to see what they’re doing and we’ve also been asked to consider the amount of human waste on our roadsides, which is becoming more common, particularly on the B7076 which runs alongside the motorway between Ecclefechan and Moffat.”
They could reduce the opening hours, shut them in the winter or reduce the frequency of cleaning.
One suggestion was to charge 20p to customers. This was done in the Borders and people were prepared to pay if the toilets were of a good standard.
The town was trying to bring in tourists not frighten them away. The toilets were also used by the home carers on rural routes and by visiting walkers.
It was pointed out that the council was installing electric charging points for vehicles at the Kilngreen so drivers would spend time there while charging their vehicle batteries.
On the issue of businesses introducing a “comfort scheme”, Mr Galloway, joint owner of the Eskdale Hotel, said: “We don’t turn people away but we don’t want people coming in and out and kids running about. Guests pay to stay with us.
“I know the Eskdale Foundation did some work to improve the Kilngreen toilets last year to make them more pleasant so that’s a possibility and something to be explored.
“But I don’t think it would be advisable for those toilets to be lost, particularly in light of what we’re planning.
“A lot of work has been done on developing this area as a tourism destination. The last thing we want to do is promote it and for people not to be able to use the toilets.”