If you thought that using a council-owned car park was expensive, the bad news is that it is going to get worse. Car park spaces and residents’ permits are set to increase with some costing as much as 45% more than last year, and the previously free Sunday parking rules may also be removed or tightened.
The aim is for councils to use the fees to plug holes in their budgets and potholes literally, but the result is putting more pressure on motorists. The average council car parking charges are due to increase by a whopping 25%, which is 8 times the current rate of inflation. On top of this increase, local councils are upping council tax from April by 3.5% on average so it really is a massive kick in the teeth to residents.
The picture around the country
Many local newspapers are already reporting on the increases in their areas, building an image of price increases around the UK.
Bournemouth residents are facing a rise from the middle of March with most tariffs increasing by 50p, while town centre car parking will start from £2.50 for two hours. The annual permit will rise by around £10 a month, with the highest cost increase soaring from £750 to £890. The changes will make Bournemouth the most expensive place to park in the area.
Despite opposition from other parties, the Labour council in Bristol passed a new budget that included the re-introduction of Sunday parking fees. These were abolished in 2012, but the council has decided to bring them back. New fines for driving in bus lanes are also expected to bring in £100,000 in extra income.
Dover is another council introducing Sunday parking charges and, along with other increases in the cost of parking, are expecting to bring in another £200,000 in funds to the council coffers. Brighton council have left most of their parking costs untouched, but visitor permits have increased by 50p while parking for up to four hours or more in Regency Square.
Cheltenham is one place where substantial parking cost increases have been approached, with those using the town centre car parks seeing a 45% increase in the cost. Areas such as High Street and Sherbourne Place will see a rise from £5.50 to £8 to park up to four hours or more.
Thanet Council has increased their parking by an average of 20p an hour, but some spots have increased by 90p an hour while free parking on Saturdays, at the Royal Harbour car park, has been removed entirely. Reading council plans to expand on-street pay and display meters by 10p per tariff band and scrapping free evening and Sunday parking in the town centre.
Flintshire authority is also proposing new charges for parking including a new all day £1.50 charge. It is still cheaper than neighbouring areas, where it can cost up to £7 a day to park in the town centres for the day. Leicester council have so far announced that they are limiting residents to four permits per household and new visitor parking permits will be introduced costing £30.
Abandoning the town centre
The worries about the effects of the increased car park charges go beyond the simple cost for motorists. MP, Sir Greg Knight, was one to voice concern about the damage to high streets as people switch their shopping to out of town centres with free parking.
He pointed out that the problems facing businesses, from online shopping, could be made worse as people find it too expensive to shop in the town centres. It could drive more companies into liquidation, where businesses are based in smaller town units rather than large out of town ones.
The price rises will certainly deter many from driving into town centres, which could have the unintended knock-on effect of killing off small, independent shops and businesses in the process. What is perhaps most frustrating is the arbitrary nature of these increases without Government being able to intervene and block what they see as excessive increases if they are against the public interest. But of course, the Government is utterly silent because they know these increases are because of their own spending cuts with local councils who are forced to tax residents more.
In fact, the increases to parking charges are a direct ignoring of the recommendation from an independent report commissioned by the government in 2011. Held by the retail guru, Mary Portas, it recommended free parking in town centres as a way to stimulate the local economy.
Instead, councils seem to have opted to try and grab yet more money from motorists who are already facing an increase in the number of fines that councils can collect. Councils hit back saying that they need to raise funds, if essential services are to be maintained, and insist that increased charges will be funnelled back into the transport network, to repair potholes that are at record levels and other road improvements.
How angry are you at these price rises on parking by local councils? Who do you think is ultimately to blame for this? If the funds raised were used only for fixing potholes and improving roads would you be happy to pay the charges? Let us know in the comments below.