Parking charges on Cumbria’s streets?

Date: Monday 5th November 2018

PARKING meters could be back on the agenda in Eden four years after the idea was rejected as part of a county council cost-cutting exercise.

Secret briefings have been given to local committees on the idea, which leaked documents say could generate £700,000 of income across the county.

However, Eden local committee chairman David Whipp said that although councillors for this area were “non-committal” on the subject, initial discussions indicated there was a “leaning towards no”.

Mr Whipp said all local committees had been briefed on the subject and told they would be able to make the decision on whether any towns in their area would have parking meters. However, if they did, they would be able to keep some of the income from them for highways projects — the suggested figure being 50 per cent. of the net profit, with the remainder going to a central highways fund.

Council documents suggest that a single parking machine servicing 10 spaces could generate £31,000 a year, which would mean a £20,000 surplus once the £11,000 cost of the machine had been deducted.

It has been suggested parking permits could be issued for residents, visitors, guesthouses, businesses and second home owners, with the council charging anywhere between £10 and £50 for these.

The costs faced by the county council to give out parking permits would be covered through any money raised from the scheme. More traffic wardens could also be hired to enforce any new restrictions and issue penalty charge notices, which would generate income, the documents state.

The county council has confirmed it has sought “preliminary views”, but stressed that no decisions had been taken and the public would be fully consulted if the plans come to fruition.

The proposals, billed as a “discussion topic”, have been presented to councillors on all six of Cumbria’s local committees, whose meetings are usually open to press and public, but the discussions have taken place off the agenda.

In November, 2014, parking meter proposals for Cumbria were scrapped after a loophole was identified during a public consultation, which could have exposed the council to a legal challenge.

However, council leader Stewart Young (Lab, Carlisle) said at the time: “While we can’t say that this will never come back at some stage — given the financial pressures caused by government cuts — I can say that we have no immediate plans to do so and any proposals in the future would be preceded by further public consultation.”

James Airey, leader of the Conservative opposition on the council, said the plans had been “toured backstage” to “soften up” county councillors with “sweeteners”.

Mr Airey said: “They have tried to do this secretly and it’s an appalling way to behave. The upper tier of the council clearly want on-street parking charges brought back, so they have sent officers out round the county to discuss it behind closed doors to get the local committees onside.

“Why are they not having this out in public? Why not put it in open papers before the council or the cabinet so we can have that discussion? It is typical of the way they sneak around.

“Cumbria is not like Kensington and Chelsea where people expect and can afford to pay for parking. We’re a rural county where driving and parking is a necessity, not a luxury.”

The county council documents state: “Good parking provision is a customer service providing access to our towns. Parking is an asset which needs to be managed.

“On-street parking charges may deter some motorists from parking in certain areas which could have a negative impact on local businesses. (It) may push parking problems from one area and create parking issues where there are no charges.”

They also said on-street parking could encourage the turnover of parking spaces to “benefit local economies.”

The county council said it had sought “preliminary views” but denied the plans were in any way advanced. A spokesman said: “Members on local committees have asked that they have more influence and control over decisions made in their area — in particular decisions relating to highways and traffic management.

“Any major decisions relating to highways, including any potential proposals on parking, would be subject to extensive public consultation and engagement before the local committee could make any final decision.

“The recent discussions with local committees relating to parking have been to ensure that the council has the correct governance in place to allow local committees to make local decisions.”