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Parking Charges Debate - New Off-street Parking Charges Could Generate Local Investment

22nd October 2019

Photograph of Parking Charges Debate - New Off-street Parking Charges Could Generate Local Investment

A new off-street parking policy which could generate income for local investment, will be considered on Thursday by members of the Environment, Development and Infrastructure (EDI) Committee.

Depute Leader Cllr Alasdair Christie said: "Every area has unique local priorities, whether this is gully cleaning, pot hole repairs, resurfacing or just managing traffic and tourism pressures. Changing our approach to charging for off-street car parking can provide a way to support some of the additional investment required to address these problems.

"This new approach can also enable real local decision making and local choices to be made about improvements - Improvements which we simply cannot afford from our current budget which has to be spread across a huge geographical area."

See the Webcast of the meeting at 10.30am 24 October 2019

https://highland.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/449059

Chair of the Committee, Cllr Allan Henderson said: "The Council manages infrastructure comprising some 4,000 miles of roads, 100 harbours, 1,400 bridges and over 200 schools. Each year, there is a reducing pot of money to invest in local infrastructure and services, and to find solutions for tourist congestion and traffic management across the region.

"Engagement with communities and staff across the Highlands has identified a number of areas which need more investment - people have also told us to generate more income to protect services and jobs. We have already successfully demonstrated that we can do this in Inverness, Lochaber and Skye."

"The new policy would streamline and simplify the process for introducing charging for many more of our car parks and it would enable people to be involved locally in the decision making and in finding solutions to any concerns raised."

The policy will be considered at a special meeting on the EDI committee on Thursday 24 October 2019.

The policy will make for some difficult decisions locally as shown in paragraph 1:2 of the Parking and Guidance Policy from 2018 that was not fully implemented -

"Where local/ city committees decide not to apply new charges or increase charges and this results in a shortfall against budgeted sums agreed by Council, then local/city committees will agree how to deal with the shortfall of income, i.e. they will decide which other Community Services budgets to reduce. They will make these decisions based on evidence, including workforce implications and they can engage communities on the options for service reductions."

This will be hard for local councillors in areas where they do not have parking charges at present. If they decide not to implement charges they will have to decide what other services in their area to reduce.

The budget pressures of the council are such that there are few places left to turn to for income generation and the alternative is to cut services even further than the last few years.

The only agenda item is off street parking published on the web page - https://bit.ly/33GiUBc

The Redesign Board of Highland council have already considered parking in great detail and paper was considered on 1 May 2019 and provides all the information that is possibly to be considered on Thursday 24th October 2019. See this paper Council Redesign: Review of Car Parking - https://www.highland.gov.uk/meetings/meeting/3971/re-design_of_the_highland_council_board

Why is this happening now?

A council statement set out the problem -

Budget 2019 to 2022

We are currently planning a budget for the next 3 years. We know that we will have less money to spend on everything we do, so we are working hard to plan for meeting a budget gap which could be in the region of £67 million over the next 3 years. We have already managed £100m in savings to meet budget reductions over the past 6 years, whilst still investing in major projects for the Highlands. We have already reduced management costs, increased levels of income and made savings across all services through redesign and efficiencies. The next three years will be no less challenging.

The increase in parking charges was pointed to in the 2018/19 budget agreed on 15 February 2018 See https://www.highland.gov.uk/info/670/consultations_complaints_and_compliments/668/our_budget/4

On 14th February 2019 the Highland council published its 3 year budget 2019 - 2022 with a reference to income generation yet again to try and close the budget gap -

8.2.2

Income Generation:

A strong message from the public is there should be a focus on adopting a more commercially minded culture and seek opportunities for income generation. This approach should be prioritised over any reduction in services. There was strong support for a tourism levy, for increasing Council tax but also to increase or introduce charges for key areas such as car parking, toilets and public events. There were suggestions to seek new areas through which to generate income such as after school activities and childcare and through developing and supporting tourism based infrastructure e.g. camper van facilities and parking. It was suggested there were opportunities for the Council to be more commercial with regards waste and the use of recycling centres and also through opportunities for Council teams to offer consultancy.

The full budget paper can be seen at

https://www.highland.gov.uk/meetings/meeting/4084/highland_council

The paper for debate by councillor on 24 October 2019 is to decide only on off-street parking. On street parking charges are not yet considered and so for some time yet free parking may still be available in nearby streets in towns like Thurso and Wick not to mention at major supermarkets.

See the Webcast of the meeting at 10.30am 24 October 2019

https://highland.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/449059

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