The report was introduced by Leigh Nicholson.
Councillor Kerin raised concerns over the number of charges that had risen above inflation particularly in Darnley Road and Argent Street car parks and in car parks where there were sports recreation facilities. He said that the charges would impact on businesses and users of the sports facilities and questioned why the charges were above inflation. Referring to page 15, he pointed out that the charges on Argent Street would increase by 42% which he felt was not justifiable even if the charges had not increased over the past 3 years. He was also concerned over the increases in the car parks for Coalhouse Fort and Belhus Cricket Club.
Phil Carver explained that the service aimed to maintain a consistent approach in charges and had benchmarked their charges against other local authorities. He said that the methodology used for charges were outlined in the report. In regards to the increase in car park charges for Coalhouse Fort and Belhus Cricket Club, he explained that the car parks were well used and that although it was currently free, it cost the service to maintain the car parks. The increase in the car park charges was to offset this cost. Maintenance of the car parks included resurfacing and filling potholes which caused accidents to users. The charges would be ring fenced back to these car parks. Adding on to this, Julie Rogers referred Members to paragraph 3.3 and said that the service looked at their neighbouring authorities’ charging schemes to try to keep a consistent approach in charges.
Councillor Kerin said that he could not agree with the principles for increasing the car park charges as the borough’s recreational spaces were much needed and well used. He pointed out that people had to drive to these places to access these and felt it was not right to have charges there.
Referring to 5.3, Councillor Kelly questioned whether this had influenced the decision to increase car park charges. Julie Rogers replied that Covid had played some part but the pandemic had an overall impact across the Council. She explained that the car parks cost the service to maintain and pointed out that the charges had not increased over the years but this needed to be balanced to ensure they were maintained.
Councillor Carter pointed out that the 42% increase was in line with inflation and that if the charges did not increase, the service would not be able to maintain the car parks well. Councillor Watson questioned whether the charges would be over a 7 day period or during Monday – Friday. Lisa Preston answered that the car park charges would be during Monday – Friday except for the car park in Grays Beach. For Canterbury Parade, the charges would be in place during Monday – Saturday, but would remain free for the first hour.
The Chair commented that an increase in charges was not well liked by people but pointed out that car parks required maintenance which came at a cost. He mentioned that he was aware of claims for injuries in car parks and questioned the cost of these. Phil Carver answered that the last figure had been in the region of £24,000 and some of these injuries had been due to the potholes in the car parks.
Councillor Watson asked what the forecasted costs of maintaining the car parks was and what the revenue would be from the car park charges for the year. Phil Carver advised the detail was in the report.
1.1 That Planning, Transport and Regeneration Overview and Scrutiny Committee noted the revised fees, including those no longer applicable, and comment on the proposals currently being considered within the remit of this committee.
1.2 That Planning, Transport and Regeneration Overview and Scrutiny Committee noted that director delegated authority will be sought via Cabinet to allow Fees & Charges to be varied within a financial year in response to commercial requirements.