The hikes in parking charges in the centre of Ludlow have been controversial. They were ill thought through and driven by a desire to make Shropshire Council a champion of “linear parking charges”. The only potential upside was that the charges were going to draw in income for the council. Council leader Peter Nutting told us in Ludlow he was hoping to raise £2.5 million to help plug the looming gap in the council’s finances.
Alas, the new regime is going to raise just £400,000 a year across the county. Is that amount worth all the effort? I very much doubt it.
We councillors have spent a month of Sundays arguing with Shropshire Council over parking charges and parking enforcement over the last couple of years. We won some of the battles but we lost on on-street charges. They have soared to £1.80 an hour in the town centre. We also lost on Castle Street car park, which has been converted to a long-term car park at £1 an hour. But charges will not run up to 8pm as originally proposed.
The rollout of the countywide scheme was continues today (14 January) in Much Wenlock, Church Stretton and Bridgnorth.
The parking charges debate was always driven by a council with had a fixed model for charging. The last minute concessions for Ludlow were only secured in a cabinet meeting in July. Political leaders backed the changes because they lusted after the extra money for struggling council finances. Council leader Peter Nutting told the Ludlow and Clee Local Joint Committee in September 2017 that the charges would raise a badly needed £2.5m.
That extra money has all but evaporated.
We learn that from a council budget consultation that the new parking charges are now expected to raise just £400,000 across the county each year.
It seems the council was talking up the amount the amount the controversial changes would raise to push through unpopular charges.
Parking enforcement, which I have argued is loss making, will be ordered to save £100,000. Details are vague but it looks like staff costs will be cut, more effort will be put into chasing unpaid penalty charge notices and barriers could be introduced for some rarely patrolled car parks.
The new parking regime is set to be reviewed in May and November. The latter review will be the most important as we will be able to see the impact over a full year.
The trouble is that by then damage to trade centre trade could be irreversible. High streets are having a tough time everywhere. According to the Chamber of Commerce, Ludlow is no different.
Parking charging must work for the good of the economy not against it as it does in Shropshire.