Constitution change could block controversial East Devon car parks price hike

Councillors will have a chance to block controversial plans for a 20 per cent price hike in East Devon’s most popular car parks.

The district authority’s cabinet had given the green light for the tariff changes – from £1 to £1.20 in high-demand facilities – to go out to public consultation.

That decision has been ‘called in’ to be looked at by the authority’s scrutiny committee and a special meeting will take place on Thursday, (October 24).

However, members can only make a recommendation back to the council’s cabinet, which would either have the option of accepting or ignoring their findings.

Councillor Paul Millar has put forward a motion that would ensure a decision could only be taking by the full council, which will consider his request tomorrow evening (Wednesday, October 23).

The Exmouth Halsdon ward representative’s bid would add ‘car parking strategy’ to the current list of a dozen discretionary areas of the council’s Policy Framework.

These items are decided on by the full council as opposed to the cabinet.

The cabinet next meets on October 30.

If the motion is agreed tomorrow, Thursday’s scrutiny committee recommendation can only be considered by full council.

If the motion is rejected, then next week’s cabinet meeting would be where the decision would be finalised.

Cllr Millar said: “Amending the constitution in the way I suggest ensures that cabinet cannot ignore the findings of scrutiny’s extraordinary meeting and gives both cabinet and council the opportunity to reflect on the work of the task and finish forum (TAFF) which, over the coming months, will crunch data and conduct detailed research into ongoing and future management of the operation of the council’s car parks and make recommendations.

“The council’s car park strategy is too important to the health and sustainability of our communities to be left to only nine councillors in cabinet, who make up less than a sixth of our membership.

“It is necessary to amend the constitution in this way because cabinet have given no indication that they intend to await the TAFF’s findings so this motion provides a vital constitutional safeguard to ensure members can veto, if necessary, any cabinet decision which is felt to be contrary to the public interest.”

‘High-demand’  East Devon car parks where a 20 per cent increase in hourly charges – from £1 to £1.20 – is proposed are:

  • Lace Walk short-stay car park, Honiton;
  • West Street short-stay car park, Axminster;
  • Orchard car park, Seaton;
  • Central short-stay car park, Beer;
  • Ham East, Sidmouth;
  • Ham West, Sidmouth;
  • Roxburgh,Sidmouth;
  • Mill Street, Sidmouth;
  • Rolle Mews car park, Budleigh Salterton;
  • London Inn car park, Exmouth;
  • Imperial Road car park, Exmouth;
  • Queen’s Drive car park, Exmouth.

Cllr Millar’s motion has been supported by Liberal Democrat, Conservative and East Devon Alliance members.

He added: “By ensuring all councillors get a voice and a vote, this should lead to a more considered policy the design and implementation of which takes into consideration of a multitude of factors, and employs a holistic approach to ensure the bigger picture is seen, and any consultation which eventually goes forwards offers the public a proper and honest choice.”

Task force to consider future of East Devon car parks – after marathon debate over controversial price hikes