Parking – Hell in a Handcart
As I said before on an earlier blog today’s Parking Panel Meeting was going to be interesting to say the least. In other words, what had happened over the last few days was for want of a better word a disaster. I think that about sums up my feeling in my disappointment after so much work was put into this process.
The figures that ‘only’ just came to light are bad, no easy way to explain them. I am still struggling to think how these were missed before and not highlighted to the Panel. Today I have yet again looked back at the previous reports looking for clues to this situation, I found none. In all Council reports and before a report is presented, they have to be signed off by finance and this includes a financial risk indicator. The Panels previous reports all contained a ‘low risk’ indicator but we (the panel) were told today these proposals (presented to Cabinet on Weds) were high risk.
This information is not a couple of pounds. It is huge, and is split into various parts. The first one is a £900k shortfull in the budgeted revenue for the 09/10 period. So in other words the predicted amount is way short. Also, it turns out contracts made by the previous District Councils were accounted differently than what they should have. Furthermore, an additional £300k that needs to be added to the shortfall. There is also a further £100k in Non Domestic Rates mis-accounted for, or needs to be clarified. There are also further additional costs that have to be added to the shortfall. The final figure could be over £1.4m, a staggering amount to suddenly be made aware of.
For me as Chairman of this Panel I will be unwilling to simply add this shortfall to next years budget. I feel that people should not be made to pay for these errors or problems. I have always said that car parking should be as cheap and fair as possible. I feel that the powers-to-be should stop thinking that car-parking is a easy target for extra income. Sadly my role and that of the Panels is an advisory role, and even though it would love to be able to set the budget for car parking, this is not within its remit.
What the Panel will do between now and the next meeting on the 24th (Jan) is look into these recommendations again. From their responses today they will not be accepting any further increases in tariff charging, but will look at other proposals put forward today. These could take into account a lot of the ideas said today by the Panel and other Members of the Council.
Of course, any new proposal put forward should have full public consultation before implementation. The more difficult hurdle to overcome is convincing the Cabinet that the drop in revenue is justified and works. The line in the sand has been drawn by this Panel on charging. But will the Cabinet take heed and not think purely in cash terms?