New parking charges have been introduced by Somerset Council. Will further hikes help the towns, or will the charges simply replenish the rapidly emptying coffers of the council?
Somerset Confidential® special SC 28
Today’s Somerset Confidential® is for all our subscribers. We hope you find it interesting.
If you’d like to get our free material you can subscribe for it here:
At Somerset Confidential®, we see our work as a public service – and that means you get most of our journalism for free.
Our job is to bring you, the taxpayers of Somerset, the information, news, and investigative analysis that enables our county to demand better governance and accountability from our elected representatives and paid officials.
We don’t like paywalls so we don’t use them a lot.
But to do what we do, we vitally rely on the support of a small base of our loyal paid subscribers. And do it better, we need to grow that base. We could really use your support. If you would like, or feel able, to offer it, we’ve set a paid subscription rate at £30 per annum. That’s 58p per edition, or 25% of the price of a cup of tea at Starbucks. And for that we’ll throw in some additional benefits.
Read two extra articles a month – and you know we write ‘em long! (That’s value for money right there.)
Get access to our back catalogue – you can search every shenanigan we report on.(Yes there have been a few of those!).
Comment – have your say! – on anything we write. (Within the bounds of decency, civility, and brevity.)
And experience the satisfaction of supporting the most innovative, public-service journalism project in Somerset. (the first version said, ‘one of the most’ etc, but then I had to intervene and point out we can’t afford the modesty.)
Support us – and support a better governed Somerset.
Andrew Lee - editor
Over the course of the summer the shiny new Somerset Council has been putting up parking charges around its patch.
We approached the council asking them for the latest on this. Specifically we asked them:
Can you confirm exactly how much parking charges have gone up?
Can you give a reason for the increase. In most cases parking charges had already been raised a couple of years ago?
Why do you believe that increasing parking charges will improve our large town centres?
The answers to questions 1 and 2 referred us to some generic material the council published back in August. The answer to question 3? Well there was no answer to question 3. More on this later.
The council has only existed since 1 April and before it did, most of the car parks were owned by the four district councils.
Some but not all. There is a fundamental friction in the running of car parks. The towns in which they are situated, would like them to be free. Free parking attracts visitors to the area either as tourists or shoppers. It helps businesses who do not have parking of their own and do not want their staff to be burdened with a daily parking charge.
There is research on this. Mary Portas was commissioned by the government to look into what could be done to revitalise our town centres. To reverse a trend where empty units, betting shops and charity shops were filling our high streets. Her work was published in December 2011.
One of her core findings was: “Local areas should implement free controlled parking schemes that work for their town centres and we should have a new parking league table.”
Time and again the issue resurfaced in her work. Later she observes: “To give the town centre a fighting chance against out-of-town developments we need to go back to basics, with business rates that work for business, decent parking and no unnecessary restrictions.”
Town Councils understand this. After all they are the the front line. They are tasked with running the towns, with trying to bring vibrancy and customers back to them. With trying to make them pleasant and inviting places for the residents who vote for them every four years.
For them the car parks they own are an asset to be sweated
On the other hand the district councils were not so invested in individual towns. For them the car parks they owned were an asset to be sweated. And sweat them they most certainly did. That policy did not appear to change when Somerset Council took over the job on the 1 April this year.