Council leader: Car parking charges have ‘got out of hand’... but will rise anyway
PUBLISHED: 08:00 06 March 2018
Weston’s car parking charges have ‘got out of hand’, North Somerset Council’s leader has admitted – but the price will still go up and the scheme looks likely to be extended to Sundays.
Town centre businesses criticised the latest price-hike for on-street parking, saying it will lead to fewer people visiting the town.
Opposition political groups fought to reverse the increase when the authority set its budget last week, but were told without charging, the budget would need to change.
This is despite council leader Nigel Ashton admitting: “I would prefer not to have car parking charges as tax.
“I think it has got out of hand. I think we have to do a complete review of what car parking charges are for.”
The council’s budget also included the provision to extend the scheme to start at 8am, and on Sundays.
Cllr John Crockford-Hawley said: “Starting charges at 8am and on Sundays shows a complete lack of understanding about how a town ticks. Those who commute are gone by 9am, not 8am. We are going to cause them to go earlier, or feed a machine for an hour.”
Cllr Elfan Ap Rees said there will be a consultation, but Cllr Crockford-Hawley feels it is a ‘farce’.
He said: “No matter how much research we make, the decision has already been made.”
All councillors appeared to agree charges were necessary – but opposition groups criticised how the cost was going up to cover gaps in the budget.
By law, the money can only pay to repair car parks, road maintenance schemes and traffic wardens.
But Cllr Mark Canniford said charging in Weston has meant road maintenance does not take up as much of the main budget, because car parking charges, which are almost entirely in Weston, are helping to pay for it.
John Tancock, who runs a business in Orchard Street, said the increase was ‘unwarranted’.
The council predicts it will make an extra £201,000 by increasing the charge and extending the scheme’s hours. The income estimate also includes the cost of charging in Kewstoke and increases at Worle Railway Station.
RAC Foundation statistics say the council received a surplus of £815,000 from car parking charges in 2016/2017 – down from £1.5million the previous year.