In a bid to gain an extra £90,000 in revenue funding Sedgemoor District Council Executive today voted through a package of measures which will raise car parking charges across the district by 10% and to standardize the daily charges across the district to £5.
The Exec also agreed to consult with relevant disability user groups about the possibility of introducing car parking charges for disabled customers before making a final decision on blue badge charges and opted to support further development of the cashless and ticketless transaction method.
Council Leader Duncan McGinty (Con, East Polden) said “We haven’t raised charges for 4 years and compared to other Districts in Somerset we are woefully below in comparison. We’ve undertaken a consultation and whilst you’d expect raising charges to be unpopular nevertheless some people were in favour. As unpopular a measure as this may seem I am reasonably comfortable with it.”
Consultation rejects increases
A consultation paper was sent out asking 3 questions –
i) Extending car park charges to all users
ii) Charging for evenings
iii) Charging for car parks where there is currently no charge.
All were firmly rejected by a majority of the the 1,214 residents who responded.
Figures presented showed that the minimum all day charge in Bridgwater was £3.50 compared to £3 in Yeovil and £2.40 in Street and to £5.10 in Taunton, while the minimum 1 hour charge in Bridgwater was 60p compared to 70p in Yeovil, £1.10 in Taunton and 0 in Street.
Across Sedgemoor there was a variance with the daily charge in Bridgwater peaking at £4.50 whilst Cheddar and Highbridge came in at £3.50 and Burnham at £5.
Cllr Brian Smedley (Lab Westover) said “Workers, shoppers and residents are caught in a trap. Already victims of the harsher enforcement regime, traffic displacement is affecting residential areas and traders have been hit by the disruption of the EDF ‘improvement’ works. The pressure really should be to lower car park prices to help increase footfall in the town and also to bring in resident parking schemes in neighbourhoods where they’re wanted. There may be a case for looking at standardising charges elsewhere in the district up to the level of Bridgwater but we don’t accept hitting Bridgwater further with these increases.”
He was supported in part by Exec member Cllr Gill Slocombe (Con Wyndham) who said “This is like turkeys voting for Christmas. Although we’ve got to balance the books I agree we should standardise at the Bridgwater level and not go higher”. She was one of 2 councillors who abstained on the vote.
Other councillors were concerned about the move to cashless/ticketless payments, although Cllr Caswell (Con, Quantocks) seemed to suggest people could still pay “in pounds, shillings and pence” and Cllr Fraser (Con, Petherton) worried that her “mobile phone was far too primitive to cope” they were reassured by Cllr Alder (Con Weston Zoyland) saying “I know not everyone is up to the modern age but don’t think like that! In 8 years what we’re talking about now will be normal. “