Council rakes in millions from parking

Nearly £10 million profit has been produced from council parking operations over the last five years in Gloucestershire.  

car-parking-fines

The figures obtained by the Liberal Democrats also show just under £2.5million was made both in 2014/2015 and 2015/2016.

Reference will be made to this huge sum of money by the Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, Cllr. Paul Hodgkinson (Bourton and Northleach) in a question directed to parking bosses at next Wednesday’s County Council Cabinet Meeting.

In commenting, Cllr. Hodgkinson said:

“Next week, I’ll be challenging the Cabinet Member for parking to provide me with details of exactly what this surplus in parking has been spent on over the last few years.

“I’m aware that any profit generated must by law be spent on transport-related activities. It would however be good to see precisely those things that have been funded from money created from parking charges and penalty notices.

“Nearly £10 million is indisputably a huge amount of money. Gloucestershire was ranked 79 out of 353 councils in England with the largest parking surpluses. It could and should have been seen as making a very real difference in Gloucestershire, but I’m at a loss to see exactly what benefit this money has actually had. I’m dissatisfied and frustrated that the roads across the county are still dreadful. Where has this massive profit gone?

“The Conservatives have had 12 years in power on Gloucestershire County Council to get this right and they’ve simply failed to sort out the roads and pavements despite this windfall.

“I am saddened that we haven’t seen significant road improvements reflecting this significant sum of money generated from people who have paid for parking charges and penalty notices.

“Only a total change of approach will end the vicious cycle of potholed roads and ever increasing parking profits.”

Council makes £10 million profit from parking charges

The campaign against Cotswold District Council’s high parking charges gained fresh impetus this week from new figures showing that the Council has made millions from motorists in the last few years.

Pounds

In answer to a question to Cabinet Member Barry Gibbs about parking income and expenditure, shocked opposition councillors heard that the authority had made a profit of almost £10 million from charges since 2006.

The total income from the district’s car parks came to £14,634,000 in the period 2006-2013 whilst parking costs came to £5,245,000.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson, Leader of the Council’s Liberal Democrat Group (Churn Valley) said he was staggered by the new figures:

“These numbers are eye watering and people will be rightly angry that they are being hit hard hit by these charges whilst the Council’s administration refuses to cut them substantially.”

He warned that, if the charges continued, the impact on the economy of local market towns would be dire:

“Council parking charges can either encourage or choke off economic development,” he said. “If councils want people to visit their towns and villages, stay a while to shop and perhaps eat at local restaurants, then they should cut charges.

“If they want their towns to compete with out-of-town shopping locations which have ample free parking, then they should provide the ability for people to park cheaply in town centres for short business and shopping visits.”

“I want places like Cirencester, Stow and Tetbury to maintain their role as centres for the surrounding rural areas, from which travel by car is the only convenient means of transport. That means the Council should recognise this and stop milking the motorist.”

Previously, petitions against the charges – presented to CDC in 2011 – have topped 2,000 signatures.

Cllr Joe Harris (Cirencester Park), who challenged the Council’s Conservative administration to stop using parking charges as a cash cow, accused them of riding roughshod over local opinion:

“People have told us on the street that increased parking charges have influenced where they shop, with some people deserting the towns in favour of places with cheaper or free parking.

“We demand an end to these excessive profits from car parking in the Cotswolds.”

Proposal to slash parking charges rejected

An alternative Cotswold District Council budget which proposed slashing car parking charges was rejected by the ruling Conservative administration.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (front) with residents and councillors outside CDC offices.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (front) with residents and councillors outside CDC offices.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson made the formal suggestion at the Council’s annual budget meeting, backed by 40 residents who turned out to hear the debate.

Paul said, “We have listened to the voices of Cotswolds residents and businesses to prepare budget proposals that reflect their needs and wishes. This is a forward-looking budget inspired by the people of the Cotswolds in tough times. We have identified areas where we can really help put money back in people’s pockets whilst stimulating the local economy.”

“We have responded to the issues that affect people everyday while also helping businesses who continue to face such a challenging situation. This Council has more money at its disposal than it anticipated so we must spend some of this – the rainy day is now here and we need to respond to that.”

“We have proposed a big change to car parking charges by making the first half hour free everywhere in the Cotswolds, cancelling the loathed 24/7 charges in Cirencester’s Brewery Car Park and slashing the price of parking for 1, 2 and 3 hour periods.”

“We believe this is a better way forward for the Cotswolds in contrast to the ruling group’s budget which has, yet again, included 24/7 parking charges at the district’s biggest car park, has kept parking charges the same in Bourton and Stow and fails to tackle the massive issue of affordable housing shortages.”

“Sadly, the Conservatives have rejected these proposals today claiming that their parking charges have been ‘a success’.  We wil not give up and will continue to push these reasonable ideas forward until the Council’s administration sees sense.”

The Lib Dem Budget Proposals in full:

  • To make the first half hour free in all CDC owned car parks in the Cotswolds.
  • To cancel the Cirencester Brewery car park pilot in which new 24/7 charges have been levied since the beginning of 2012.
  • To introduce a new car parking tariff across all Cotswold District Council owned car parks as follows:

1 hour – £0.70
2 hours – £1.50
3 hours – £2.20

This would have brought the tariffs in line with the car parking charges for Moreton and Tetbury.

Call to reduce parking charges rejected

This week, Cllr Paul Hodgkinson made a call to reduce car parking charges in the Cotswolds.

He asked the following question to Conservative Council Leader Lynden Stowe at this week’s Cotswold District Council meeting:

‘Will the Cabinet commit to consider reducing car parking fees in Cotswold District Council-owned car parks at the earliest possible opportunity and certainly before Gloucestershire County Council on-street car parking proposals are developed any further?’

Response from Councillor Stowe:

‘The Council’s policy is to freeze the charges it levies for car parking in CDC-owned car parks throughout the District for a three-year period, and has set out its proposals to fund this measure within its Medium Term Financial Strategy.  I see no reason to change this policy at this time.’

Cllr Hodgkinson then asked a follow up question:

‘Councils across the country and some not far from here, such as Worcester, Wiltshire and Stroud are reducing their car parking charges and providing extra parking in an explicit attempt to support economic recovery in their towns and villages by encouraging visitors.

Currently, commuters are clogging up the streets of Cirencester, making it hard for residents to park, whilst the car parks lie empty – they’re only 30% full in the most recent survey.

Gloucestershire County Council recently consulted on proposals to reduce on-street parking for non-residents and to charge for on-street parking through blanket permits and pay and display charges. The whole strategy rests on encouraging more use of CDC car parks. Everyone, apart from you Cllr Stowe, is agreed that we need to lower prices in our car parks, provide a low cost commuter car park tariff to meet the needs of the low paid working in town centre businesses, allocate some car spaces to residents, boost the economy and in the process improve parking revenues. Do you recognise this picture in any way? Is it not too late to show some common sense, before Cirencester’s decline becomes irreversible. As part of a wider review of parking charges will the Leader commit to remove the Brewery 24/7 so-called pilot charges which have proved counter productive to all concerned?’

In response, Cllr Stowe claimed that other areas were ‘probably in a worse economic state than our area’ and that there was no justification for reducing parking charges.

For more information, see this article from the Gloucestershire Echo:

http://www.thisisgloucestershire.co.uk/Commuters-clogging-Cirencester-streets-car-parks/story-17401679-detail/story.html

Paths, potholes and plastics!

All of the parish councils in the Churn Valley have just held their Annual Parish Meetings and various issues have been raised.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (right) with Cllr John Hughes (Shadow Environment Spokesman) - plastics was a hot topic at the annual parish meetings

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson spoke at each meeting with a report back on what had been happening both locally and CDC-wide in the last 12 months.

Paul said, “It was great to see lots of people at North Cerney, Baunton, Rendcomb, Coberley and Bagendon parish council meetings in the last ten days.”

“Locally, I spoke about littering of verges along the A435 and the Whiteway in particular and how people can call CDC on 01285 623623 to get the are cleared quickly. Also, the state of some roads is appalling! Potholes are an ongoing bugbear and I report them as I see them, but residents can do the same direct to GCC. I can get on the case if they aren’t fixed promptly.”

“People also wanted to know how the Churn Valley Safer Cycle and Walkers Path is developing. I told them about how the existing bridlepath is being brought up to the correct standard and how the route could now be extended to Rendcomb from North Cerney.”

“There was lots of good feedback on the news that CDC will be introducing kerbside hard plastics recycling from the autumn – something I’ve campaigned for vigorously for the last 5 years. The poor decision of CDC’s administration to recommend 24/7 car parking charges across the district was also discussed and there was relief that in the end they had only gone ahead with this in one car park.”

Colesbourne has a parish meeting rather than a council and no date has yet been fixed for their annual meeting.

Protesters make their voice heard over 24/7 charges

A protest against the new parking charges in Cirencester’s Brewery Car Park took place today, Sunday 8 January.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (front) was joined by Cllr Gary Selwyn (left), Nigel Robbins (right) and 60 residents to protest against the new 24/7 charges

Cotswolds Liberal Democrats and local residents challenged the New Year parking hike by taking to the streets and alerting drivers to the new charges.

Cotswold District Council’s Lib Dem group have campaigned against recent price rises and attempts to extend parking charges to Sundays and night time in local authority car parks in Cirencester and other towns in the district.

Group leader, Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (Churn Valley), said: “There has been a spectacular lack of vision by the controlling Conservative group on the Council which has seen the motorist as an easy way of raising revenue without considering the drastic impact on local businesses that are already struggling because of the recession.

“We have been reminding motorists that the new charges started from 1 January and that all other car parks across the town are free on Sundays and evenings. If we can help people save a few pounds in the process by alerting them to free parking elsewhere it will be a job well done.”

He believes that the CDC pilot scheme in the Brewery Car Park is ill advised, “They went ahead with price hikes at the start of last year and, although our campaign helped change their minds about Sunday and night-time charging, they have insisted on pressing ahead with these unwise charges at the Brewery Car Park in Cirencester.

“We are calling on the administration to think again about this extension of charges (and any others they might be considering) in order to help retailers and restaurants in our town centres.”

He said local businesses contributed significantly through business rates and deserved the full backing of the Council.

The Council’s Liberal Democrat councillors were joined at the protest by residents who are angry at the extra charges and are encouraging as many people as possible to boycott the Brewery Car Park and park elsewhere in the town.

Paul added, “Around 60 people joined us today. This is about people power and not caving into an idea which hasn’t been thought through. We have to stand up for our residents and businesses at a time when household income is going down.”