East Devon councillors have agreed a 20 per cent price hike at car parks in Sidmouth, Exmouth, Honiton, Budleigh Salterton and Beer – but it won’t kick in until 2022.
The controversial proposals to increase the hourly rate from £1 to £1.20 are the first charge increase in a decade.
Representatives last week approved the changes but delayed when they will come into force – April next year – in a bid to help high streets recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
Postponing the levy rise will leave a £300,000 hole in the authority’s finances, councillors were warned.
Where parking charges will rise in East Devon from April 2022:
- Sidmouth: Roxburgh, Ham (East and West), Manor Road, Mill Street and Manor Pavilion;
- Exmouth: Imperial Road, Imperial Recreation Ground, London Inn, Beach Gardens, Queen’s Drive, Queens Drive and Queens Drive Echelon;
- Honiton: Lace Walk, King Street and New Street (North and South);
- Beer: Central and Fore Street;
- Budleigh Salterton: Rolle Mews and Lime Kiln.
Councillor Paul Millar backed the increase but did not want it to begin this year.
He said: “For the last 12 months we have given grants to keep businesses alive.
“At this crucial stage when businesses have narrowly survived going under and gone through a mountain of hell, why would we let them fall the moment they approach the finish line, and why would we nudge people out of the town centres?
“We need to encourage them back to high streets and town centres after the year of getting into the routine of online shopping.
“For the next year, the savings should be made elsewhere and this can be done, and for one year only.
“Raising the charges has to happen, but doing it in less than two months’ time is the wrong thing to do, and we can delay the increasers until April 1, 2022.”
Portfolio holder for finance Cllr Jack Rowland added: “It is important to remember why we are doing this.
“We are having to fill a gap of £300,000 which will diminish our reserves to the absolute minimum.
“We have to do this, but doing it this year is not the best way forward, but next year, we will have to.”
Cllr Sarah Jackson said: “Unfortunately, I appreciate that there will have to be rises in car parking, and we haven’t put them up for years, so we are at the point where we have to generate some revenue somewhere to support our services.
“But I welcome the deferral for people to get back to some normality and back into work and they were face additional financial pressures, so it is sensible to defer it but we need to be clear there do need to be some rises.”
Cllr Ian Thomas felt delaying the rise for another year ‘bordered on irresponsible’ and said: “This a shortfall of £300,000 in a £9million budget – over three per cent of the total budget.
“How does the administration intend to make £300,000 this year, or is it taking the reserves down to the absolute minimum? I think that borders on irresponsible and is a risk far too far.
“We bottled the car parking issue 12 months ago and it was a great disappointment.
“We have sailed close to the wind and on this we are sailing close to the wind into the eye of the storm, and that is irresponsible for a public body.
“In a time of enormous uncertainty, it doesn’t take much of a jolt to put a significant threat to the revenue budget.”
East Devon District Council voted by 36 to 17 in favour of the 20 per cent car park charge rise, which will take effect from April 1, 2022.