MP's claim colleagues share parking charge view 'is simply fiction'
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If you sit along Exmouth seafront and look across to Dawlish Warren, you’d need a telescope to see that the two car parks there run by Teignbridge District Council charge £2 an hour. If you drive up to Topsham, you pay Exeter City Council £2.20 for the first hour. East Devon District Council’s has been a bargain £1 for an hour for 12 years. In that time, the Council has lost two-thirds of its subsidy from central government, and the Treasury has even increased VAT on the car parks.
There has been a great deal of press attention given to my proposal to increase pay-as-you-go car parking charges in popular EDDC car parks, to £1.50 in many and £2 in a few tourist hot spot car parks. Less well-known is the fact the new proposed regime will remain cheaper than the vast majority of authorities in the South West. Indeed, my new proposed scheme means a local resident can pay £10 for a month to use all of our car parks at any time - that’s just £2.31 a week - is more affordable than ever, meeting the cash flow needs of residents on low incomes who no longer have to pay £120 for an entire year. We want as many residents to use this as possible, there is no catch.
In proposing increases to pay-as-you-go parking, the aim was twofold. First was to contribute towards better management of busy car parks by easing traffic and congestion by directing visitors to the less popular car parks, such as Maer Road in Exmouth. Good for lowering emissions, good for climate change. Second was to create a fairer charging regime where visitors can make a slightly higher contribution to their impact on our local environment. The Chief Finance Officer presented Councillors with a barrage of savage set of cuts to frontline services from street cleaning and kerbside recycling if we did not raise revenue within the Council, somehow. Meanwhile the evidence from our neighbouring authorities - Exeter, Teignbridge and Mid Devon - is that visitors will continue to pay more for an hour in tourist hot spots with no harm to local economies. Sideshore in Exmouth also showed that last summer. With the £2 a day winter charge still being retained for everybody for five months of the year, premium summer prices for visitors seemed a no-brainer.
I do not share the concerns of the local MP about any negative impact on tourism or business - he has offered no evidence to support this view. In addition, his claim that his Conservative colleagues on the Council share his opposition to my proposal is simply fiction - they backed it in the meetings and thanked me for bringing it forward. I can only speculate that Mr Jupp may be seeking to distract from the fact that the reason our coastal High Streets are struggling is due to a significant lack of central investment. On the contrary, the added revenue from visitors will, among other things, help brighten up our town centres. Mr Jupp had claimed to have secured hundreds of thousands of pounds for this himself through the government's Future High Streets Funds, but his pre-election announcement was proven to be false.
In fact, the truth is that since the parking charges were last raised 12 years ago, the Conservatives at Westminster have placed more legal responsibilities onto us, like the Homelessness Reduction Act, while at the same time slashing the government's subsidy to us. While the Council has gladly stepped up to the plate, it comes at an added cost and staff resource and that has to be paid for. Making a decision to increase pay-as-you-go charges lines the pockets of nobody, it all gets reinvested into areas residents will truly see a difference, and I ask local residents to back us and get a permit when it's advertised. I sincerely believe this is the right thing to do.