Public ignored on town centre parking pledge
9 March 2020
Labour Councillors on Erewash Borough Council, were left dumbfounded last Thursday at the Budget Full Council Meeting after the controlling Conservative Group voted to scrap the Borough’s free parking scheme.
Following their pledge at the elections last May to attract new shops to our High Streets they agreed that the free parking initiative was already seeing an increase in footfall, how can this blatant U-turn on their key pledge now benefit shoppers and local businesses? At the same meeting, Tory Council Leader Councillor Carol Hart announced they were appointing a new council executive member for with responsibility for town centres, without budgeting for them and without prior approval of council finance officers.
Scrapping the one hour free parking in Erewash will have a disastrous effect on our already-struggling town centres of Long Eaton and Ilkeston. People will not pay a £1 to park in order to pop and pick up fish and chips, they will not shell out a quid to bring some shoes to be repaired, drop off dry cleaning, stop for some cake and tea, go and buy a birthday card, browse the market stall; they will simply not come into town. Footfall will be reduced and these proud local shops will suffer from a reduction of custom and risk going the way of Dorothy Perkins, Rowells, Swanns and many others.
Erewash Tories are not the first to make this mistake.
Increased parking fees in Ashbourne in 2018 resulted in loss of footfall “Revenue and ticket numbers were down on average across the four months in 2019, adding up to 9,225 less tickets”, according to figures from Derbyshire Dales District Council.
In Gedling in 2010, the Tory-run council faced protest from business after charges of up to 60p an hour were installed in some car parks in Arnold, Carlton and Mapperley in August 2009. Council leader, Councillor Roland Spencer, said at the time: “It has been a difficult year since the charges came in, but we have continued to monitor how the scheme worked. “We said we would listen to traders and be prepared to review the charges in the light of experience and that is what we have done.” Charges were cut from 50p to 30p for an hour and a half. This was ten years ago. These car parks are now all free.
And according to research done by Yorkshire-based car leasing company Flexed.co.uk:
- Towns and villages with free parking see up to 60% more cars parking in local facilities
- Shopkeepers say their businesses attract more customers when parking is free, and takings are up around 30%
- Drivers say that even a 20p charge is enough for them to shop elsewhere, even if this involves a diversion of several miles
- In towns where there is a mixture of paid parking and free parking at local supermarkets, 80% of drivers said they would park and shop at the out-of-town supermarket
One driver told Flexed.co.uk: “I’ve lived in this town for 15 years and I can count on one hand how many times I’ve gone out to shop locally. The big supermarkets are less than a mile away and there’s always free parking. There’s even somebody to wash my car while I’m doing the shopping.”
Why must Erewash Tories perpetuate the mistakes made by Tory councils elsewhere? Abolishing an hour’s free parking will have an enormous impact on the number of people coming to shop. Our towns will suffer even more as footfall drops. We must save free parking in Erewash.
Councillor James Dawson Deputy Leader of the Labour Group and Shadow Executive Member for Resources said:
“I’m astonished that while the Tories cut our towns free car parking they have also appointed another council executive member with a special responsibility allowance, which will have to be subsidised through the Council’s contingency reserves. Under these new parking charges, the money paid to fund this executive would allow 6,000 cars/people to park in our town centres. The message it sends is clear, austerity isn’t over for the public but, it is for some council members.”
Councillor Denise Mellors, Leader of the Labour Group said:
“I think it is only a matter of time before we see the impact on the high street and shops start to close. This damaging decision demonstrates a lack of understanding in local economies” Car parking charges cannot be used as a simple revenue source, if these charges damage the viability of our town centres it will have a knock on effect on the resources available to the Council.”
Catherine Atkinson Chair of Erewash Labour Party said:
“Erewash Labour Party campaigned to introduce an hours free car parking 5 years ago. Conservatives councillors and even the MP have always claimed credit for the policy we fought for. People voted, believing Conservative leaflets which stated they would protect it. To scrap it months later is disgraceful. Never has a pledge so central to both the local and parliamentary elections been reversed so quickly.”
Councillor John Frudd said:
“The free 1 hour car parking initiative was the flagship policy of the Tories’ 2019 manifesto. They have now reneged on this and let the public, the motorists, and the shopkeepers of Erewash down. As a consequence of this treachery they are likely to destabilise the already fragile and vulnerable small businesses of our Borough’s high streets.
“In the wake of national Governments adopted austerity lifestyle, I am amazed our high streets have performed as well as they have. I believe our high streets will be all the poorer for the policy, and many small shops and businesses will have no option but to abandon their dream of prospering. Shame on Erewash Tories – not a friend of small business.”