Posted: Sat 3rd Feb 2024

Parking Charges Generate Over £1 Million for Cash-Strapped Council, Sparking Concerns for Independent Shops /
This article is old - Published: Saturday, Feb 3rd, 2024

PARKING charges have raised more than £1 million pounds for a cash-strapped council, it has been revealed. 
Monmouthshire County Council – which is having to find £8.4 million worth of cuts and savings to produce a balanced budget for 2024/25 – is planning to increase its charges by 10 per cent from April to raise nearly £70,000 more from drivers. 
But a councillor has said she fears that could come at the cost of Monmouthshire’s independent shops. 
Conservative councillor Jane Lucas, who works as a driving examiner, said she would like to see all charges scrapped. 
“If it was up to me we wouldn’t have parking charges at all, it would be free and would get our towns to grow,” said the councillor who represents Osbaston in Monmouth. 
“Increasing charges for car parking has a direct effect on footfall, visitors and our people who live in the areas around our towns, and they go to Cwmbran rather than come to us and our shops. We want our shops to survive don’t we? 
“Our shops are petrified, particularly in Monmouth, of going under.” 
She said a resident had contacted her and called for parking in Monmouth’s main car park to be free in recognition of the disruption from road works and closures in the town. 
Labour cabinet member for finance Cllr Ben Callard had already acknowledged at the scrutiny committee meeting businesses “feel strongly” about using parking charges to encourage people to visit the county’s towns “rather than go to Cwmbran as the parking is free”. 
The Llanfoist and Govilon member said while the council wants to encourage use of public transport and walking and cycling it also acknowledges in a “very rural county a lot of people have to come into town to work”. 
He was responding to a comment from Wyesham independent councillor Emma Bryn, who claimed car parks were run at a “loss” and the “burden of car parking” falls on council tax payers. 
But the council’s head of highways and regeneration, Mark Hand, said money raised from charges support a shortfall in the council’s highways budget. 
He said: “The 10 per cent increase will raise more than £68,000. Car parks contribute towards the overall highways service.” 
He also said there isn’t evidence to support claims parking charges negatively impact high street footfall. 
In response to Cllr Lucas cabinet member Cllr Callard said: “You would like free car parking? We receive £1.6 million from car parking – that’s not insignificant. I would like to know where you intend to find that from?” 
Cllr Lucas replied she was referring to an “ideal world” and Cllr Callard responded by saying: “Unfortunately we don’t live in an ideal world”. 
He said the cabint has prioritised services such as education, where despite a percentage increase in funding it has been unable to fund teachers’ pay rises, and supporting the vulnerable in its budget. 
Cllr Callard also said the council intends holding a review of car parking in the next 12 months that will look at all its car parks and charges. Mr Hand said that review could also look at any impact on numbers visiting high streets. 
Parking charges increased in April 2023 and the council had intended holding the review during this financial year but in September said it doesn’t have the staff to undertake the work and it would likely have to be commissioned as part of the upcoming year’s budget. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

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