PRIVATE firms are being invited to tender for the running of public loos in the Borders.

The £2.6 million contract would see all of the current 41 toilet blocks handed over to the company for the next decade.

And Scottish Borders Council staff employed in the cleaning and maintenance of the facilities would be transferred.

The move comes after the local authority recorded a £179,000 deficit during its first year of charging for entry.

And a decision was made last year to invite expressions of interest from third parties into taking over the operation.

Although the official tender notice was published this week, and is due to start next April, bosses at Newtown claim the transfer isn't a done deal.

And that it will be up to elected members, most likely at their meeting next February, to decide the way forward for public conveniences in the Borders.

A Scottish Borders Council spokesperson said: “Following the completion of this tendering exercise a range of options will be put to councillors as part of the 2020/21 budget setting process.

"The estimated value outlined in the contract advert is the overall estimated cost over a 10 year period."

Officers at Scottish Borders Council had predicted the introduction of 30p charging at 27 of the 41 facilities would generate income of £280,000.

But after the first 12 months only £89,000 had been deposited in the automatic charging boxes.

The deficit was blamed on tailgating, doors being wedged open and good Samaritans.

And it was agreed last year to investigate alternative methods of keeping the facilities open amidst growing budget pressures.

The spokesperson added: "As part of our ongoing public toilets review, and as agreed by councillors in June 2018, we are seeking to establish the potential cost to the council of these facilities being managed by a third party."

The advertised £2.6 million contract is to 'provide all of the public conveniences services' and to 'provide an options appraisal of the network, identifying commercial opportunities and enhancements'.

The five-year contract, with options to renew for a further three then two years, also asks companies to look at 'opportunities for potential installation of Changing Places Toilets' as well as 'opportunities for potential charged Showers/changing units at key tourism/sport/leisure destinations'.

Closing date for submitted tenders is September 30.