A mooted public consultation over a 20 per cent price hike at the busiest car parks in Exmouth has been likened to asking ‘turkeys to vote for Christmas’.
Town representatives have blasted the controversial plans – and told the driving forces behind them to put the brakes on.
Tariff increases – from £1 an hour to £1.20 – are being proposed at the popular London Inn, Imperial Road and Queen’s Drive facilities.
Exmouth Town Council has written to district authority bosses, telling them to put a public consultation on hold.
It penned the plea after members backed a motion by Councillor Paul Millar at their October meeting.
The trio of Exmouth car parks are among a host of high-demand sites around East Devon that are subject to the proposed price rises.
East Devon District Council (EDDC) is poised to launch a public consultation over the matter.
It has also set up a task and finish forum (TAFF) to consider the future of the region’s car parks.
Cllr Millar’s motion asked his town council colleagues to ‘speak with one voice’ and write to EDDC chiefs to oppose the plans.
He wants EDDC to halt any consultation until the TAFF reports its findings and recommendations – and for a ‘credible business case’ to justify any changes.
Cllr Millar, who is also a district representative for the Exmouth Haldson ward, lamented the ‘sorry situation’.
He told the meeting: “It is my view that any consultation like this would present a fait acompli and a false choice – ‘this change or no change’, which residents will see right through.
“Turkeys don’t vote for Christmas, and a consultation opened now would be a waste of taxpayers’ money.
“At [EDDC] cabinet a fortnight ago when proposals were formally presented, I argued that it is in all of our interests for Exmouth town centre and small and medium-sized businesses to thrive, and we want everybody in our community to have access to them.
“Colleagues made the point that raising tariffs would hit the poorest in our communities, and I agreed with that.”
His fellow town councillors backed the motion – with many referring to another recent consultation over car parking charges.
Cllr Fred Caygill said: “To go through this exercise again would be a waste of public money…and I wholeheartedly support the fact that they have created a task and finish forum which I hope will look at this in a lot more detail.”
Deputy mayor Cllr Brian Bailey added: “The ink is hardly dry on the last consultation, so I fail to see why they should waste a considerable amount of money on another one.
“I can’t see that anything has changed in just a little over a year, which is not much time at all really.
“These things, as we know, go on forever. The TAFF should have the decision, the TAFF should go and report to the council in the fullness of time and then the council can make a decision. I fail to see why they need to take a consultation whatsoever. It’s a waste of public money.”
Cllr Brian Toye said: “Who but an idiot would want to pay more car parking charges? What is the point of going to public consultation? When I was on the chamber of commerce executive committee, every time we had a meeting [about parking charges]they were banging the table on no car parking charges.
“If you ask all the shopkeepers, they will give it a thumbs down. If you ask every motorist, they will say they are being charged enough already – so public consultations are a complete waste of time.
“If they want some sort of public consultation, maybe they can go to some sort of expert to get some sort of considered opinion, and they might even say car parking charges should go down.
“We need a system we have got in Exeter where you can be accurate with the time and you can have the first hour free or a very low charge and then you can take the charges up.
“Car parking was originally a public provision. When I came to Exmouth there were no charges for car parks.
“Probably the bright spark that started it thought there’s a bit of pressure on car parks, so thought ‘I will charge to reduce the demand’. Then they discovered this is a money making revenue.
“The public consultation is useless.”