Thursday, 9 February 2012

Free Parking offer on 29th February

The local newspapers of the Cornish and Devon Media group have started a campaign to get people to value their town centres more. As part of this, they have teamed up with Cornwall Council to offer a free parking day in towns across Cornwall on February 29th.

Both the campaign and the free parking are very good things. But my understanding is that Cornwall Council's first reaction to the approach from the newspapers was to worry about the loss of revenue. This shows once again how they view town centre car parks as a cash cow rather than a service and how they have built their budgets around a certain level of income (and other services like road safety schemes get cut when they don't achieve their parking targets).

I'm glad that Cornwall Council eventually decided to participate in the scheme and I hope that local people will make the best possible use of the offer - coming to our town centres and doing their shopping there. Many local shops have a huge amount to offer at reasonable costs, but they usually don't even get a look in as people are content to make a single trip to a supermarket and do all their shopping there.

I hope also that Cornwall Council take a look at the usage of the car parks during the free day (albeit a Wednesday in February) and think again about the ever rising cost of car parking. Of course we cannot afford them to be free all day, every day. But if the charges were more reasonable then we might see a lot more people using them and actually end up with more money coming into council coffers. Better for both the Council and the town to have 100 cars at £1 than 25 cars at £2.

I hope that the newspaper campaign is a success and I hope that everybody possible takes advantage of the free parking day on the 29th February by getting hold of the token that will be published in the Cornish Guardian, West Briton or Cornishman.


Lanson Chamber said...

Do we know how much it is costing the newspapers to 'purchase' the free car parking spaces from the council for the day Alex?
Only I have had an idea ....

Alex Folkes said...

My understanding is that this is being donated by the council on this occasion

Lanson Chamber said...

In that case, and I don't wish to sound cynical or negative because this is on the whole a good thing, why is a media company being permitted to make money from the council donating what are basically our facilities.

By that I mean the car parks are effectively owned by council tax payers, and the newspapers will be selling extra copies by requiring people to cut out a voucher. So they make money from the arrangement.

If the council are offering free parking and not looking take any cash from the car parks that day, then really no commercial organisation should be allowed to step in and make money from that.

Perhaps you could check the facts Alex and find out for certain if any money has changed hands - if that information is available.

From a Chamber point of view, if the council are giving up their car parks for the day then we would wish the full benefit of that to be passed on to all council tax payers, not just those who purchase a certain newspaper.

I accept and appreciate that the newspaper is carrying a campaign to save our towns and I welcome that, I just don't feel comfortable that it might be being part funded in this way.

Alex Folkes said...

I've now had the following answer from the council:

Hello Alex
Thank you very much for sending me a copy of the comments from the Mayor of Launceston (sic). I am pleased that the Mayor shares our view that this is a positive campaign which will benefit our town centres.

Following the request from Cornwall and Devon media to support their campaign, we agreed that vouchers offering free parking in a number of Council run car parks on 29 February would be printed in the Cornish Guardian / West Briton and Cornishman papers. Since then it has also been agreed that the Cornish and Devon Post will also be part of the voucher scheme. Only vehicles displaying the vouchers will be entitled to free parking on that day and I can confirm that checks will be carried out by the Council’s civil parking enforcement officers as part of their normal duties.

We have not asked either of the newspaper groups to make a financial contribution for any loss of income as the Leader feels it is right for the Council to support the local media in Cornwall. As you know we followed the Government’s guidance to local authorities to stop publishing their own newspapers and, since then, we have worked with our local newspapers on a number of positive initiatives, including the Green Cornwall campaign and foster care and adoption campaigns and the forthcoming new arrangements for waste collection.

This initiative is a good example of the local authority and the local media working together and I hope that you will use your role to support it.

Lanson Chamber said...

Thanks for getting that clarification Alex.

Let's just hope the council do not expend too much effort in checking for newspaper vouchers on the day if they are making no revenue from the arrangement.

Let's hope the scheme is a success and we can maybe look to repeat it again in the future.

Paul Loft
Chairman, Launceston Chamber of Commerce
(not Mayor yet)