(Link to Council Priorities: Economic Development, Character & Environment, Quality Services)
The Portfolio Holder for Environment and Transport introduced the report and reminded Members that at its meeting on 22 July 2015, the Council had agreed a three-year schedule for revised parking charges. It was noted that the final year of the schedule was 2018, and therefore Cabinet was asked to give consideration to a further three-year schedule for the January 2019 to December 2021.
The Cabinet noted that as a result of the present three-year programme of revised parking charges, the Council’s parking charges remained broadly competitive with similar areas.
The Portfolio Holder explained that rather than applying an annual ‘inflationary’ increase, the proposals for the next 3 years focussed on targeted changes to the structure of the parking charges that would better influence how and when a car park was used. Specifically, increases were proposed where they would help balance the often-competing needs for parking by shoppers, workers, visitors and commuters. For this reason, some of the changes proposed represented an above inflation increase whilst other charges remained unchanged.
With regard to the offer of significantly discounted annual parking permits for use by commuters and workers, as demand for all-day parking was very high at the majority of the Council’s main and station car parks, the proposals included a reduction in the discounts to help manage demand. In this regard, the reduction in the discount was proposed as part of a switch to an on-line permit system that would enable the customer to pay monthly instead of by way of an annual prepayment, and enabled the permit to be easily cancelled when periodically not in use, such as over the summer holidays. Under the new on-line permit system, it would be possible to elect to pay monthly under a recurring arrangement or select and pay for any number of months up to a given maximum, for example, 12-months.
Furthermore, with the introduction of flexible working practices many of the car parks were increasingly used outside of the traditional 9.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. pattern. Similarly, the emergence of a vibrant night time economy had resulted in several town centre car parks becoming increasingly busy well in to the evening. In these circumstances, the proposals allowed for a 1-hour extension to the beginning and to end of the current charging period.
The Portfolio Holder further advised that to encourage the adoption of ‘greener and cleaner’ travel in Elmbridge, the proposals included the introduction of a new 70% discount for a Green Parking Permit for fully-electric vehicles. Although the number of fully electric cars in use nationally was low at just over 2% overall, it was also proposed that up to 5% of the available permits in a car park be made available for Green Permits, although the number would be agreed and reviewed each year in consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Environment and Transport.
The Portfolio Holder then provided details of the three-year schedule for the revised parking charges with effect from January 2019 to December 2021.
With regard to the Station Car Parks, it was proposed that there be no increases in the all-day or permit charge for the first year. For Year 2, it was proposed that the daily peak and off-peak charges be increased by 50p to £8.50 and £3.50 respectively. In addition, it was proposed that the annual Permit (previously discounted by 30%) be withdrawn in favour of the monthly Permit which carried a lower discount of 20%. In Year 3, it was proposed that the daily peak and off-peak charges be increased by 30p to £8.80 and £3.80 respectively, which would also increase the monthly permit cost. The Cabinet was also asked to consider whether to introduce an off-peak all-day Sunday charge of £2.50 given the growing use of these car parks on a Sunday.
In respect of the local car parks, it was proposed that in Year 1, a simple linear parking tariff at all these car parks based on 80p per hour for stays from 30 minutes up to 4 hours, with an all-day charge of £4.00, be adopted. In addition, the monthly cost of a Permit would be £50. In Year 2, as proposed for other car parks, the additional discount that had been applied when purchasing twelve months in advance for the pay-monthly permit facility would be discontinued and the monthly cost of a permit would remain at £50. For Year 3, it was proposed that the tariff rate be increased by 10p per hour to a standard rate of 90p per hour, therefore increasing the all-day charge to £4.50 and the monthly permit to £56.30.
With regard to the main car parks, the Portfolio Holder advised that in Year 1, it was proposed that the charging hours be extended to 8.00 a.m. – 7.00 p.m., and that new 9-hour and 5-hour charges be introduced of £7.00 and £6.00 (to cater for the working day). The charge per hour for the first and second hour would increase by 10p, and the charge per hour for the third and fourth would increase by 20p per hour. For Year 2, it was proposed that the charge for the first two hours would not change. However, the charge per hour for the third to fifth hour would increase by 10p per hour, and the all-day charge would increase by 50p to £7.50. It was further proposed that the annual Permit (discounted by 45%) be withdrawn in favour of the pay-monthly Permit which would carry a lower discount of 35%. In Year 3, the Cabinet was asked to consider options for the introduction of a small overnight and Sunday flat fee charge of £1.20 which would be based on the charge for a one-hour ticket, and a further extension to the end of charging period i.e. from 7.00 p.m. to 8.00 p.m. or 10.00 p.m.
The Leader thanked the Portfolio Holder for Environment and Transport for his comprehensive update and then invited Councillor C.R. Sadler, a Walton Central Ward Councillor, to address the meeting. Whilst expecting to see a range of price increases around the current sub 3% level of inflation, Councillor Sadler was surprised with the actual proposed increases as set out in the report. He highlighted the various percentage increases for the station car parks, the local car parks and the main car parks and commented that overall, the increases in total income from off street parking would amount to nearly 10% in Year 1, almost 6% in Year 2 and 2.8% in Year 3. In his opinion, Councillor Sadler considered that this was excessive and unfair. He reminded Members that over the last 6 years, there had been significant increases in the prices charged in the Council’s off-street car parks. This had resulted in an increase of local workers parking their cars for free in residential roads which then made it difficult for those who lived there to be able to park their cars. In view of this, Councillor Sadler asked that the report be withdrawn and more moderately priced charges, in line with inflation levels, be considered.
The Leader thanked Councillor Sadler for his comments and advised that the use of percentages, could at times, be misleading and in context, most of these increases would result in a 10p rise. The Leader further commented that the final year of the current parking charging schedule would end in December 2018 and therefore it was timely that parking charges for the next three years should be considered. Whilst the proposals included the extension of the charging hour to 7.00 p.m., those who visited the Town Centres in the evening would still be able to park for free. He advised that if the increases were not set at a sensible level going forward, then there would be a need to find the money from elsewhere and the general consensus was that there should be no cuts to frontline services. In respect of commuters parking in residential roads, this was a wider issue across the Borough and could be addressed by introducing or extending resident parking schemes.
The Leader then invited Councillor S.J. Selleck, Group Leader of the Residents’ Associations Political Group, to address the meeting. Councillor Selleck raised the issue of the current free Saturday parking concessions and queried whether this would continue after 31 December 2018. The Portfolio Holder for Housing reminded Members that under the previous Administration, these concessions had been introduced. However, it had been agreed at that time that these concessions would end when the Drewitts Court Car Park refurbishment works were completed or 31 December 2018, whichever was the latest. Accordingly, the Portfolio Holder for Housing confirmed that the concessions in the three Walton off-street car parks would end on 31 December 2018.
Recommended: that the three-year schedule for revised parking charges for January 2019 to December 2021 in respect of the following, be agreed:
(i) Station Car Parks, as set out in Appendix B (page 1) of the report;
(ii) Local Car Parks, as set out in Appendix B (page 2) of the report; and
(iii) Main Car Parks, as set out in Appendix B (page 3) of the report.