THE Leader of Northumberland County Council has said public toilets are "not a luxury", but a "necessity" for communities.

At this month's Full Council meeting on Wednesday (July 7), Coun. Derek Kennedy, county councillor for Hexham West, asked Council Leader Glen Sanderson if improving Hexham's public toilets could be a priority.

Coun. Kennedy said: "In particular the toilets at the Sele Park are in a poor state and are in a need of refurbishment and those behind the Queens Hall have been left abandoned and unused.

"Do you agree these are a priority and if so when can the Hexham public expect action?"

In response, Coun. Sanderson said "up and down the country councils have been closing toilets".

"We have taken a very different approach to that, we think public toilets are very important," he said.

"In fact, they're not a luxury, they're a necessity and they should be every part of a community as street lights and pavements."

Coun. Sanderson added that public toilets in places such as Holy Island, Seahouses and Bamburgh have all had a "significant amount of money spent on them", including for facilities for people with disabilities.

"One thing that I was very pleased about was that we managed to get included in last year's budget was £1million of new money on top of what we already spend on public toilets," he said.

"That new money will be placed in key areas to upgrade and improve public toilets."

Coun. Sanderson said he has asked officers to put together a "plan of action", led by Coun. John Riddle, Portfolio Holder for Local Services.

Coun. Sanderson added: "So far as Hexham itself is concerned, I am aware that Hexham Town Council have had a number of meetings with Northumberland County Council officers and I think those meetings have been useful and I want them to continue.

"And I do know that Coun. Trevor Cessford has raised this matter already with Coun. Riddle, so these matters are being dealt with."

The leader of the council agreed to go on a tour of the toilet facilities in Hexham with Coun. Kennedy.