Car parking charge hike delayed until 20222 to allow own centres to recover
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Controversial plans to hike car parking charges by 20 per cent in some of East Devon’s most popular car parks have been agreed – but the rise won’t kick in until April 2022.
East Devon District Council on Wednesday (February 24) night voted in favour of rising car parking charges for the first time in a decade, with the hourly tariff to go from £1 an hour to £1.20 per hour.
The recommendation had initially come from the council’s car parking TAFF and scrutiny committees with a proposal that the charges were introduced from April 2021.
Wednesday’s full council meeting though decided to delay the rises until 2022 in order to help town centre’s recover from the coronavirus pandemic as they felt that price hikes just as the area comes out of lockdown would be a mistake.
Cllr Paul Millar, who had called the recommendation of the scrutiny committee for debate, proposed that the rise in parking charges be agreed, but for them not to take effect until April 1, 2022, rather than the initially planned 2021 introduction.
He said: “For the last 12 months, we have given grants to keep businesses alive.
“At this crucial stage when businesses have narrowly survived going under and gone through a mountain of hell, why would we let them fall the moment they approach the finish line, and why would we nudge people out of the town centres?
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“We need to encourage them back to high streets and town centres after the year of getting into the routine of online shopping. For the next year, the savings should be made elsewhere and this can be done, and for one year only. Raising the charges has to happen, but doing it in less than two months’ time is the wrong thing to do, and we can delay the increasers until April 1, 2022.”
Cllr Jack Rowland, the council’s portfolio holder for finance, said: “It is important to remember why we are doing this. We are having to fill a gap of £300,000 which will diminish our reserves to the absolute minimum. We have to do this but doing it this year is not the best way forward, but next year, we will have to.”
He said that he realised the inherent risks of reducing the council’s reserves and said the danger was if they are hit with emergencies or extraordinary requests, they will have to look at how the money is raised or defer services.
But he added: “I feel this is wrong time because of the highly unusual circumstances we are in to increase car parking charges. There will be a certainty about next year, reserves are there for a reason and ideally are not taken to a minimum, and if we are faced with emergencies, have to think about the impact and the decisions that we will take.”
Cllr Sarah Jackson added: “Unfortunately I appreciate that there will have to be rises in car parking, and we haven’t put them up for years, so we are at the point where we have to generate some revenue somewhere to support our services.”
But Cllr Ian Thomas felt that delaying the rise for another year ‘bordered on irresponsible’ due to the fact it would cut the reserves of the council down to the absolute minimum they can hold.
And Cllr Tom Wright said that while it was sensible to delay the rise, it was unwise to decide now what the increase it 2022 would be, with Cllr Philip Skinner adding that it was unknown what the situation next year would be.
Councillors voted by 36 votes to 17, with two abstentions, with support from all political parties across the chamber, in favour of the 20 per cent car parking charge rise, which will take effect from April 1, 2022.
The car parks affected are:
Sidmouth – Roxburgh, Ham (East and West), Manor Road, Mill Street and Manor Pavilion
Exmouth – Imperial Road, Imperial Recreation Ground, London Inn, Beach Gardens, Queens Drive, Queens Drive and Queens Drive Echelon
Honiton – Lace Walk, King Street and New Street (North and South),
Beer – Central and Fore Street
Budleigh Salterton – Rolle Mews and Lime Kiln