Car Parking – Pay and Dismay

No one ever really likes Monday mornings as it is the first day back after a weekend. It is bad enough having the Monday morning blues without adding parking charges into the mix. This Monday (24th) is going one of those mornings and will no doubt go long into the afternoon, if not early evening. We now have a clearer picture of what is, and has happened within parking. I wish the initial estimates of only a £1m shortfall were true, but it is a lot worse. It is £3m. Yes, £3m for the 2011/12 period

How in the hell it is £3m you may well ask, and it is a very valid question, which, I will try and explain in further detail. The economic downturn coupled with a poor summer and Christmas period have left a £1.8m shortfall in predicted income for the 2010/11. To be honest for the last 3 years we have overall had poor weather during the main summer periods, and it does not take Einstein to workout that this would have a knock on effect on budgets. After all, this and future years summers could be the hottest on record and all our problems could be solved, but after the Met Office prediction of a BBQ summer a few years ago I will remain sceptical to say the least and it would not be best to factor the mystical science of weather forecasting (or some may say guess) into budget predictions.

The Business Rate (NDR) estimate has also been undervalued. This has resulted in a further £400k that needs to be added to the budget. Other liabilities were contracts by the former District Council’s that have recently come to light and are now accounted for properly. This totals another £400k. As you can see, this totals £3m. It has been calculated that over the next few years a certain amount is to be raised from car parking charges. This is a very moot point and is not an exact science, but listed here are those calculations.

2010/11 £11.223m
2011/12 £11.776m
2012/13 £12.226m
2013/14 £12.938m

A question that now needs to be asked and answered is how, or more importantly, should this shortfall be added to the 2011/12 budget. That question will have to be answered at Mondays meeting. There are some ideas that have been written in the report. It has been stressed though that these are not recommendations, but merely ideas to help any decision the Panel arrives at. It will be up to the Panel to accept some, all, none or come up with other ideas before a final recommendation is made to Cabinet on the 16th Feburary.

Listed here are the ideas.

Option 1.1 Implement the proposals previously agreed by the Panel and proposed to the Cabinet. Leave other matters such as winter summer differentials to the discussions over the year and potential implementation in 2012/13. Current prediction is a shortfall of £3.0m

Option 1.2 Implement those elements of option 1 that are revenue positive in a town and delay other proposals until further discussion, specifically on the winter summer differentials. Current prediction, on the basis of no further change to charges within the year is a shortfall of £2.0m This would clearly be altered if changes were made in the year. In addition we benefit from a significant increase in the predictability of the revenue.

A uniform increase of 10p on all rates across the board would raise £0.6m less any allowance for customer resistance. Approximations of revenue from other uniform increases can be extrapolated. 20p =£1.2m 30p =£1.8m

Option 1.3 As option 1.1, but with an immediate increase of tariffs of x pence added to the proposal previously put to consultation.
Option 1.4 As option 1.2, but with an immediate increase of tariffs of x pence added to the proposal previously put to consultation.

Option 1.5 Abandon all changes previously put to consultation, an immediate increase of x% on all tariffs by notice. A 2.5% increase will be needed to address VAT changes alone.

Option 2 Investigate increased winter summer differentials on “destination” and “community” car parks separately over the year, with possible implementation during the year.

Option 3 The desire to introduce a one coin first hour tariff is expensive in many areas. The first hour could be charged at approximately half the two hour rate saving an additional £0.6m over option 1.1 and £0.4m over option 1.2

Option 4 Option 3 could be introduced in long stay car parks only, keeping short stay at the advertised rates saving an additional £0.1m over option 1.1 and £0.1m over option 1.2

Option 5 Season tickets were to be sold at a rate of 150 times the daily rate in the long term, discounted in some areas to 100 days in 2011/12. The full rate could be charged immediately saving £0.2m, if introduced in October, it would save £0.07m in the year.

Whatever other options are implemented, it is possible that a shortfall in predicted income would still exist.

Option 6 Recommend to Cabinet that any remaining shortfall is removed from the expected revenue generated by car parking in Cornwall.

Many of these options are not going to be popular, then again paying for parking is never popular. The real question that needs to be asked corporately and at the very top is how parking should be treated. Should it be treated as a business, or as a service? Once this question has been answered then we as a Panel, the Council and the general public have a clear message on how car parking is run and charged.

For further information on Mondays meeting click HERE. It has all the budget figures for all the car parks in as much detail as possible. Please feel free to read and examine them, and if you can come up with any ideas between now and Monday then drop me a line.

6 comments

  • One Cornwall

    Are these figures based on the total amounts taken from car park ticket machines (including the change that is kept when people don't have the exact money), or are these figures only based on recorded ticket amounts?
    If your answer is 'don't know' please explain how you can present these figures while not knowing if they are total totals or totals minus the 'missing change' figures?
    Thanks..
    One

  • Cllr Andrew Wallis

    Total amounts

  • JonG

    My comments are coming from someone who works in the tourism sector, and earns earns much less then the national average at less the £10K. I live and work rurally, and have to run a car to get to work, go shopping etc.
    Point one
    Parking is a service. A service for the local traders who gain revenue for the country via business tax. Hike up the parking prices, and this will have a direct impact on that bottom line. In a fairer world, in an effort to help keep the public paying these charges onside, I would suggest a minimal payment for the first half hour (20p?) but a higher rate then on eg first hour £1.50, two hours £3.00 and so on. This will create a fast turn around of spaces, help fast purchases in shops, and still allow prices to go up. I personally would pay this and shop quickly, but if I were faces with a lower rate of £1+ I wouldn't be so inclined to park and shop at all thus losing all revenue to the council. Hope that makes sense.
    Point two
    The price of season tickets is going to hit local people the hardest, with mine going to cost slightly less the a months take home wage. One twelfth of my annual wage. Just for the privilege of being able to park at work…. The increase from last year is unfair, and in places that rely on seasonal workers, we are going to have serious trouble finding staff if they can't afford to park their cars. There is no public transport that helps in this situation. Tourism is a major income provider for Cornwall, but something as simple as raising car park charges will damage us as a destination. For season tickets, I would suggest annual tickets are priced more realistically for the local people who will need them, and there is a weekly ticket introduced for visitors. Both these tickets should be open for use in any car-park county wide and not restricted to single car parks. This would boost trade countywide, and make Cornwall more attractive as a holiday destination.
    These increases, together with VAT increases, insurance increases, petrol increases could easily create job loses and businesses going out of business at trade will drop off. Budgets have to be readjusted in light of the bigger picture, not just on old forecasts that have been superseded by bigger events.

  • One Cornwall

    Thanks.
    Does this then mean that future car parking prices will be based on the assumption that the excess charge accrued by not offering change at the ticket machines will continue as it has done in the past?

    Which means that in the future, when offered replacement ticket machines that WILL dispense change, Cornwall Council will most likely refuse them in order to keep their books in order.

    Providing ticket machines that ensure the public get the best service means looking towards the day when all machines offer change. How can you do that when future budgets are dependent on that change?

    CC 'need' us to continue to 'not always have the right coins when parking' in order for them to keep their car park budgets on course?

    Is that anyway to run a small nation Andrew?

  • waderman

    I refuse to pay the extortionate fees for car parking. Consider this: charge less, earn more. That's what many private businesses do. Why is it considered that charging more will automatically earn more? Many people simply cannot afford the charges so will stay at home.
    And as for the VAT rise, it should be pointed out that the additional cost to local government is 2.1% not 2.5% as stated here. 0.4% may be only a small figure but this is no excuse to pass an unjustified 0.4% cost onto the customer.

  • Rob's blog

    I agree with the other comments above raising parking fees will not be a good thing.

    However what really concerns me is the accounting practices at Cornwall Council. How on earth can they suddenly realise there is a 3 million pound difference between projected and actual earnings? I understand the confusion over different practices by the respective district councils and other ways in which the shortfall may have been not allowed for.

    But and it's a big but how the hell did no one notice until now? It's not a small amount does the council not account for income on a month by month basis? or has the council just been sitting on this one hoping it would go away?

    Is there any way of knowing if this shortfall is isolated to parking, could we face a situation whereby other areas have been not checked upon?

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