LONG BATTLE: Car parking causes financial problems
The long battle over parking charges in Wirral has resulted in a gap of hundreds of thousands of pounds in the council’s budget.
In March, all Wirral councillors voted for a budget which committed to making an additional £1m from new car parking charges and increased fees.
However, the plan to bring in new charges at coastal locations such as New Brighton and small centres such as Bebington, as well as charging a standard £1 per hour rate capped at £5 for a full day, became incredibly controversial.
Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors ‘called-in’ the Environment and Transport Committee’s decision to go ahead with this plan, resulting in two long meetings.
Ultimately, these meetings did not change the original plan, after five Labour councillors, Green Party councillor Pat Cleary and Liberal Democrat Chris Carubia voted in favour of it.
Speaking at last night’s Policy and Resources Committee, Shaer Halewood, Wirral Council’s director of resources, said: “The current forecast indicates a potential overspend so far of just under a million pounds, £963,000, and it’s mainly as a result of the unachievement of car parking income of around £700,000, although there are variances in other areas.
“As the committee will be aware, we are not able to present an unbalanced budget at the end of the year and therefore we need to ensure the financial position at the end of the year is balanced.
“Myself and the strategic leadership team are currently working on options at the moment to ensure the budget can be brought back into balance at the end of the year.”
Cllr Tom Anderson, leader of the council’s Conservative group, said the authority had found ways to pay for income not found in other areas and wondered why this was not possible for lost car parking revenue.
Ms Halewood said she was aware early on that some of the extra revenue from car parking would not be made this year.
She added that this had been accounted for by job vacancies within the council and posts which had not been filled at the start of the year.
But Ms Halewood said she would bring forward a plan on how to make back the rest of the £700,000 to a future committee.
Cllr Phil Gilchrist, leader of the Lib Dem group, sought to defend the call-in, saying it was always known that some of the parking income was unachievable and things do change throughout the year.
At previous meetings on parking charges, council officers had suggested a residents’ parking scheme could be put in place to protect those worried about drivers using residential areas to avoid the new fees.
On this, Tory councillor Lesley Rennie asked Ms Halewood if she expects the council to make the full £1m from increased parking revenue next year and if the costs of a residents’ parking scheme would reduce this figure.
Ms Halewood said she will present more information on that to a future meeting of the Environment and Transport Committee.
Words: George Morgan, Local Democracy Reporter
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