Unpopular parking meter plan back on agendaBy Jon Nurse
February 27, 2013
Parking meters or raising car park charges are back on the agenda as pressure mounts to deal with drivers disobeying roadside restrictions.
Council bosses revealed they are considering the unpopular measures which could be introduced as part of the town centre regeneration after they were quizzed on why £106,000 for civil parking enforcement remains unspent.
Highways chief Councillor Keith Baker says the unspent cash and changes would help fund a long-awaited switch of parking enforcement from police to the council.
Cllr Baker said: “It is our aspiration but we are grappling with how to fund the decriminalisation when it starts to make a loss. People think it’s a cash cow but it’s not.
“One potential option is on-street car parking charges which a lot of people would not like. That’s why we are being very tentative.
“At the moment the current view is to connect it with the town centre regeneration which would make sense. We need proper consultation and to make sure people are behind us.”
Robin Ashton, Wokingham Chamber of Commerce vice-president, said: “It’s a difficult conundrum to fix.
“We wouldn’t want anything to happen that could put people off coming to Wokingham.
“We have been quite vociferous in our stance against on-street parking charges and car parking charges is a very touchy issue.”
At Thursday’s full council meeting Cllr Rachelle Shepherd Dubey said: “Bad parking makes residents’ lives a misery and the police don’t have the resources to do anything about it. There was money in the budget for parking enforcement in 2011 – and two years later you still haven’t spent it.
“And you have put £220,000 for it in the capital programme this year.”
Neighbouring authorities that have seized control of parking enforcement lose between £40,000 and £100,000 per year through running costs but Cllr Baker has identified three ways the loss could recouped.
He said: “I would prefer to see it absorbed as a social cost and come out of the Council Tax we raise, but the downside is there could be up to £100,000 coming out of somewhere else. We could raise off-street car parking charges but we won’t want to do that when we’re encouraging more people to come to the town centre.
“The other way is to introduce on-street parking charges which is the way every other council in the immediate area has done it.”
He added there could be another creative solution that is yet to be put to the table. Plans for meters and a £1 charge for 30 minutes parking were abandoned in 2009 after widespread criticism.
The £220,000 is in this year’s budget to account for the two-year process of changing Traffic Regulation Orders to move control to the authority. However, Cllr Baker said no advances will be made until there is a ‘reasonable idea’ of how the loss can be bridged.
Cllr Shepherd Dubey also highlighted parking charges at Dinton Pastures and California Country Park are due to rise in the next financial year.