Suffolk Coastal’s pressing need to bridge a £2.7m gap between its income and spending has forced its Cabinet to agree the first increases in town centre car parking charges for six years.
It is anticipated that the changes in April will help bring in over £350,000 in the new financial year and play an important part in balancing the Council’s budget between now and 2015/2016.
“We have reluctantly made these decisions but we have little choice left when it comes to increasing our income and so protecting those services that our communities want and need,” said Cllr Andrew Nunn, Cabinet Member for the Green Environment.
“Since we initially announced our plans in August we have sought and received views from across our district on the proposals and have made what changes we can. But the stark fact is that despite making £10 million of savings over the last decade we urgently need to increase our income.
“The changes to our town centre car parks will still leave them as being among the best value in the region and we have held off as long as we can to protect our shops. I hope that people will continue to recognise and support the unique range of local specialist shops on offer in our district,” added Cllr Nunn.
The changes to town centre car parking, which range from 10 pence to £1 depending on length of stay and where, could raise an additional £224,000.
“It should be remembered that this Council has also been doing a great deal to help promote and support our local shops, whether with specific initiatives such as Felixstowe Futures, or securing the funding for a town centre manager in Woodbridge, or through community-led projects in market towns across our district.
The Council’s network of car parks across the district have a key role to play in providing safe and affordable places for people to park, whether in tourist areas or by shops. It is recognised that town centre car parks have to be priced in a way that does encourage a turnover of spaces for shoppers, backed up with long-stay facilities for those working there.
Using money gained from the Government, the Council has been investing in town centre and transport related projects that have been aimed at supporting the retail sector and local jobs. The Heritage Coast Market Towns Initiative is one of those Council-supported partnership projects and it was recently nationally recognised as an example of good practice.
“Using our car parks to help generate additional income is one of the few ways that we can get a contribution from the many people visiting our district and benefiting from services such as our free public toilets, our cleansing services, our parks, gardens and tourist facilities.
“We have a responsibility to all our residents to ensure that we are providing our services efficiently and effectively, and that they are funded in as fair a way as possible. I hope that people will recognise that is why we have to introduce these changes, however reluctantly,” added Cllr Nunn.
This week’s Cabinet meeting (held on Tuesday) also agreed to charge blue badge holders for parking, although giving them twice as much time for their money as other motorists, while also charging beach hut owners an extra £20 if they want a second car to be registered on their discounted parking permit.
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