Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Parking charge proposals for next year released

It may seem like we are still arguing over this year's, but the first set of proposals for next year's charges for Cornwall Council car parks have just been published.

The parking panel have gone to a lot of effort with these new proposals and they are better than the current set of charges, but there are still many issues with them.

First, the bare figures for Launceston car parks. For the three town centre 'short stay' car parks, the charges are:

First hour - 50p (no change)
1-2 hours - £1.50 (down from £1.70)
2-3 hours - £3 (up from £2.80)

Plus, in response to the complaints from many local businesses, an 'all day' tariff is being reintroduced at the Walk House (Tower Street) car park only of £5.50.

For the Cattle Market Long Stay car park:

First hour - 50p (no change)
1-2 hours - £1.50 (down from £1.70)
2-3 hours - £3 (up from £2.80)
All Day - £4.50 (up from £4)

These figures are clearly better than they might have been. Keeping the 50p first hour charge and reducing the two hour charge is good - even at the cost of an increase in the other charges. The recognition that there are some people who need to stay all day but cannot use the Cattle Market long stay car park is welcome, although I would have preferred an all day charge of £5, not £5.50.

However, the guiding rule for all these charges is that the overall budget had to stay the same. This is in spite of the massive under-performance by the Council in reaching this year's budget. At the moment they are running about £2 million short which seems to indicate that they have raised parking prices too high and people are not prepared to pay them. We have to wait and see what action the Cabinet will take to rectify the budget but I hope they have learned that they cannot simply raise charges even higher.

The other key issue is season ticket prices. This year prices have risen from £195 to £400 and the indication was that prices would rise again to £600. I'm very glad that this price rise has been abandoned and the basic cost will be held at £400.

However, we have complained many times that this figure is still way too high and that many town centre workers are low paid. To their credit, the parking panel have tried to find a way of providing a discount for low paid workers. But their solution - £300 for those in receipt of working tax credit - is wrong in two regards. It is still far too much to charge low paid town centre workers and working tax credit is only available to people aged over 25. So the many young people who work in our town centre will still find themselves paying almost a month's take home pay just to park. I think that this is an area where the Council needs to think again, both to reduce the charge still further and to find a discount system that does not discriminate against young people. As it stands, I think that the proposal will fail an equality impact assessment.

The Parking Panel will discuss these recommendations on Thursday. After that, they will go to the Cabinet for approval before going out to public consultation. If they pass all of that, they will come into force in April next year.

No comments: