August was my last meeting of talking about car parking charges with Cornwall Council’s Councillors via the Community Networks. The reason for these meeting was to get the views from my fellow Councillors on how car parking charges should be administered in their areas.
In the past I have tried to gather their views, but this has not been that successful. Out of 123 Councillors, only 65 replied to a questionnaire. Even fewer have turned up to any of the panel meetings. So this time I decided to go to them.
It was a very interesting process with some very good debates and ideas. It was clear that my fellow Cornwall Councillors felt the ‘one size fits all’ does not work when it comes to the charging for car parks. During the process it was explained that I (as Chairman of the Parking Advisory Panel) had no control as to how much was raised by these charges, because that figure had been set by Cabinet.
What could be done is to adapt the various tariff prices to suit the area it covered. With a few clicks of a spreadsheet it could be easily worked out where you could do the changes without losing revenue. It also came down to how charging for car parking should be treated in certain areas.
For many towns it was apparent that whilst cheap one hour charges are good, they do not encourage people to stay longer, and therefore shop longer. With the one hour charge it allows people just to nip in, but in reality people who nip in generally park in the streets in the limited waiting bays, or side-streets they know of.
These towns wanted a better two hour rate than the current charges that offered (cheap one hour, but the two hour jumped steeply). After a click or two of a spreadsheet it worked out that these towns could have up to two hours car parking for £1. Smaller areas felt that they did not have the shops for a two hour stay and wanted cheaper one hour. This was also made possible, and some got 20p for the first hour.
Some towns wanted a different rate for summer and winter. If the charges were raised by a small percentage in the summer it could almost pay for free car parking in the winter. For one large tourist area, raising one tariff by 10p allowed free or almost free car parking in the winter.
A few areas did not want any changes (including any raises) as they felt the tariffs and charging periods were right for their area. Of course many (including me) feel that there should be a more reasonable income taken from charging, but alas, this is not within my powers.
What also was refreshing was Councillors from all parties worked together to get what’s best for their area. With party politics put aside solutions could be found. It is a shame there is not more of this cross co-operation.
Overall I felt this process worked, and from the feedback I have got back most Councillors were happy with the end result. Sadly one Community Network’s Councillors decided it did not want to meet me, which is a pity, as it represents a very large area and has many car parks located within it. I did send another email asking for them to reconsider, but they didn’t.
Now all this data will be collated and put into a report that will be presented to the panel in September for its approval. It will then go to Cabinet who make the final decision. Then, it will go out to public consultation which will finish early December. Then back to the panel for any final tweak, before it goes to Cabinet for the final approval.
Special thanks should go to my Vice-Chair Shirley, Peter and finally Kate, whose skill with a spreadsheet was a thing of magic.
Lets just hope Cabinet accept the panels recommendations without any extra raises.