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Traders label parking charges 'discriminatory'
8:10am Thursday 15th August 2013 in News
FURY has continued to grow in Stockton Heath over the changes to parking charges with one shop owner branding the council’s decision as ‘disgraceful and discriminatory’.
Recent figures have further fuelled people’s anger after it was revealed that the proposed 30p minimum charge for car parks in Stockton Heath and Lymm is simply a ploy to raise extra cash by the council.
Clr Brian Axcell has slammed the changes calling them ‘a stealth tax on the residents of south Warrington’.
Clr Axcell said: “The council’s approach for these car parks is in stark contrast with that for their other district car parks - all of which are free.
“The council’s tactics compare badly with their policy of free permits for residents’ parking zones, which are responsible for the mess in the council’s parking services finances.”
It has been revealed that the car parks were already in profit, prior to free parking being cut from two hours to one.
The combined surplus from the car parks is now running at £96,000 per year but this has failed to meet the annual profit target of £200,000 set by the council’s parking service one year ago.
Clr Axcell said: “There would be a huge increase in income from the 30p minimum fee.
“If car park usage were to remain the same, the surplus would rocket to £280,000 per year.
“Even if 40 per cent of short stay visitors stop using the car parks, they would still generate over £210,000 a year for the council.”
Paul McIntyre, who is the co-owner of etc in Stockton Heath, believes the council are acting ‘disgracefully’.
Mr McIntyre said: “More than 80 traders signed a letter explaining our concerns about the changes and requesting a meeting but the council refused.
“The parking charges are causing problems with my business which I have had for more than 25 years.
“They are clearly discriminating against the south as they haven’t made any changes to the north.”
Adele Rennox, duty manager at the Co-op, has been receiving complaints on a daily basis about the parking charges.
Ms Rennox said: “People are only doing basket shops instead of doing a full supermarket shop.
“I don’t have any official sales figures but I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re down.”
Peter Wharfe, owner of All That Jazz, said: “We haven’t noticed a difference in sales yet but it is making our customers rush more as they are used to having free parking for longer.”
WARRINGTON Borough Council has declared that its parking strategy is the ‘right one’ to break even.
The council has responded to what it called ‘a vocal minority of critics of the borough parking strategy’, claiming it has cut the overall deficit within parking services by £125,000 between the 2010-11 and 2011-12.
The council’s executive board member for highways, Clr Linda Dirir, said: “The majority of the parking executive board task group agreed that as a whole, our parking services should aim to break even.
“This means that any surplus from car parks should help to pay for other areas of the service that are non-profit making, such as on-street enforcement, non-profit making car parks and residents’ parking zones.”
“The parking strategy for Warrington was approved at the June 2013 executive board meeting and we believe that the strategy is the right one for the borough as a whole.”
In the financial year 2011-12, Warrington Borough Council was making a loss of £243,000.
This was a combination of the staff parking deficit totalling £106,000, the residents’ parking zone permits deficit at £129,000 and the on-street parking deficit amounting to £59,000.
There was, however, a surplus from parking across Warrington of £51,000.
To address the deficit caused by the provision of staff parking, which originally cost employees £13 a month, charges were increased to £24 a month for employees below grade 12 and £34 a month for employees above grade 13.
A council spokesman said: “As the scheme was only introduced part-way through the financial year 2012-13, the cost of providing staff parking was still in deficit.
“However, the aim for 2013-14 onwards is for staff parking to break even.”
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