Parties clash over St Albans parking

The parking ticket machine in the car park for The Old Bell in Harpenden

The parking ticket machine in the car park for The Old Bell in Harpenden - Credit: Archant

Financing the total cost of requested car parking changes across St Albans could amount to almost £1.6 million, the ruling Tory administration has revealed.

A resolution passed by full council in May called in principle for the reversal of a budget decision to increase charges across the city – including Sunday parking and the reduction of free parking at recreational facilities – following an assessment of the financial implications.

In a report issued to last week’s Cabinet meeting the overall cost of reversing the entire parking strategy was given as £1.6 million, a figure which took into account the effect on NCP managed car parks as well as those run by the council.

Cllr Beric Read, portfolio holder for community engagement and localism, said before the meeting that the current charges were introduced as part of a strategy to make better use of car parks and help support workers, commuters, shoppers and businesses.

“Car park usage is up over five per cent, year on year, since the changes. We will lose this, with the cars presumably going back onto residential streets. We will also not be in a position to solve other parking issues addressed in our parking strategy.

“I want to ensure that we are able to continue to address the district’s significant parking problems. If we implement all the changes asked for in the council resolution, I am concerned that we won’t be able to do this. In my view the costs are prohibitive. I’ll be interested to hear from the supporters of the proposals on how best to pay for the changes.

“£1.6 million is the equivalent of a 16 per cent increase in council tax.”

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But Lib Dem leader Cllr Chris White condemned the findings: “I’ve taken particular exception to this report, which I believe is poor. There are too many questions in it and there is a mismatch between what is in the motion and some of the numbers.

“Totting it all up to £1.6 million saying ‘there you are’ is really unacceptable and misleading.”

He said he had spoken to the campaigners, whose petition was on its way to the council: “They include businesses, who feel they have not been involved in the process originally or the current process. There seems to have been a complete breakdown in communication there.”

He called for a menu of different options to be presented to businesses for them to consider as part of the scrutiny process, for example, that the cost of reversing the Sunday parking charge at the Civic Centre car park would only cost £13,000.

Council leader Cllr Julian Daly said they had taken the motion at face value and there was no menu of options presented originally, however this could be considered as an option for the future.

The report will now be forwarded to a working group that is looking at the details of the budget for 2015-16.