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Car parking - charges up; income down

July 13, 2011 8:00 AM
By Trevor Carbin

Wiltshire's bungling Conservatives have been forced to admit that their drastic hikes in car parking charges across the county have led to a reduction in income for the council as motorists choose not to use WC car parks.

The figures come in response to a question from Jeff Osborn. In Trowbridge's Church Street car park £6,189 was taken in the first three months of this financial year, compared with £7,520 for the same period last year, despite (or because of) the charges then being much lower.

Cllr Osborn also asked about the Bradford Road car park, which had always been kept free of charge by West Wiltshire Council, but where charges were introduced by the Conservatives this year. £1,089 was taken in the April/May/June period - not enough even to cover the deficit on Church Street.

Installing the pay & display machines in Bradford Road cost about £3,400, and the cost of new signage in the West Wiltshire area cost nearly £7,000. A further £2,650 was spent on press announcements of the new charges.

In Salisbury the revenue from off-street car parks fell from £646,221 in April/May/June last year to £642,014 this year. Given that prices have doubled this means the number of people paying to park has halved. There has though been a rise in the takings for on-street parking from £48,506 to £64,101 over the equivalent periods.

Other communities are fighting back against the charges. At Tuesday's council meeting Cllr Desna Allen (Chippenham) presented a petition of 3,007 signatures calling on WC to reverse the harmful and counterproductive charges.

Cllrs John Knight (Trowbridge) and Brian Dalton (Salisbury) asked similar questions about the effect of charges on income in their areas.

No questions or petitions about the impact on the local economy have been submitted to Council from areas such as Warminster represented by Conservative councillors.

For the full report see http://moderngov.wiltshire.council/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=15970&T=9 The figures are in the answers to councillors questions.

At the council meeting the cabinet member for parking, Dick Tonge, responded by refusing to reduce charges but offered the possibility of getting retailers to organise a refund system for shoppers. "We will look at a proposal to introduce a county-wide cashback redemption scheme - to modify ticket machines and introduce a scheme across Wiltshire as soon as possible. The details are being worked up, and will be tabled and discussed at the July 26th cabinet," he said.

...................................................

Here's a press release from the county group:

Liberal Democrats secure early review of car-parking charges

After a petition of 3,007 signatures was delivered to Chippenham Area Board by local shopkeepers, local Liberal Democrat Councillors took the issue to Conservative-controlled Wiltshire Council, and secured an early review of the disastrous new car-parking charges.

Desna Allen, Councillor for Chippenham Queens and Sheldon, said "Local businesses around Borough Parade and Emery Gate car parks have really taken a hit from the council's ill thought-out 110% increase in car parking charges. When local residents and businesses came to me with their concerns, I was pleased to be able to take those concerns to Wiltshire Council. It is clear that the parking charges rise is having a direct impact on employment in the town. We are also losing shops, and along with that, the reasons to come to Chippenham."

Jon Hubbard, Lib Dem Group Leader, commented following the council meeting "We have been arguing the case for Wiltshire's market towns for months now but the Conservative administration have refused to listen. Communities across the county have been objecting to the irresponsible behaviour of the Conservative run council and eventually the number of signatures on numerous petitions and the power of the arguments against these new charges must have won out. Our intervention has forced Council Transport spokesman, Cllr Dick Tonge, to review a key Conservative policy just months into its chaotic implementation. I've seen first hand in Melksham what these charges can do to town centres. This review will force the Conservatives to consider changes to their muddleheaded plans."

"Wiltshire Lib Dems are calling for local communities to control the parking charges in their area. After all, why else have town and parish councils if they are not going to manage their communities. This means that local councils can restore short-term free parking, allowing people to pop in and use their town centre without being penalised, whilst long-term charges ensure the council can still raise the money needed to be invested in public transport."