Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Free services?

When visiting Wales, we found many of the Car Parks were free. What a lovely welcome for tourists and locals alike. Visitors parked, walked and then had money left to spend in the local shops/pubs and restaurants, instead of being ripped off, by either council parking fees or National Trust.

Also prescriptions and a tuition fees free too. Is Wales any more in a mess financially than we are, how does Wales manage to provide these free services??
Posted by Anonymous to swanageview at 11:38 PM


The Postman said...

Swanage Town Council parking charges.

I was somewhat surprised to read on the Telegraph that it is unlawful for councils to use parking charges as a revenue raising exercise. See http://tinyurl.com/38bozuh

The local government association says “Money raised from parking is retained locally for funding things like road maintenance, street lighting and parking enforcement. The motorists who pay for parking benefit from the things it pays for.”

“Councils can’t use parking as a revenue raising exercise but they should have the freedom to set charges at a level which covers the cost of providing parking. That cost varies in different parts of the country and councils will make decisions based on local factors."

Since STC does not mend the roads etc., and uses parking charges as a fund raiser for their general spending they would appear to be acting unlawfully. Any thoughts Mr Postman?

Posted by Anonymous to swanageview at 11:06 PM

The Postman said...

Well, I do know that the Council's activities are scrutinised by the District Auditor. Which is why the Council stopped selling caravans. But something to look into.

Anonymous said...

If car parking charges are to be discussed at Council meetings, it may be in the public interest for the press and public to be excluded. It was and still is the case when SBV is on the agenda.

Anonymous said...

I have today sent an email to the District Auditor raising this point. Others may choose to do so as well. He is legally obliged to respond to all official correspondence and has always done so in the pastin a timely and professional manner.

As Mike points out, Swanage Town Council has been wrong in the past regarding financial decisions, and the incident he cites led to the rash and careless decision to sell the lease of the Holiday Park. I hope the new Town Clerk is more observant of the rules and regulations set by the Audit Commission than was he predecessor and the then Mayor.


tel: 0844 798 1741

Anonymous said...

'If car parking charges are to be discussed at Council meetings, it may be in the public interest for the press and public to be excluded. It was and still is the case when SBV is on the agenda.'

No. One thousand times - no.

There has been too much of this of late, including the closure to the press and public of all discussions about the disposal of SBV. I agree it is justified on certain occasions; for example, when information regarding a contractual agreement which is confidential is discussed, and of course in all matters regarding an employee of the town. But for a discussion about car parking charges - no. I have heard this matter discussed in the past (in terms of means to raise revenue to pay the town's expenses) and I have never noticed it being held 'in camera'.

If Julian Assange comes across leaked records of the whole SBV matter, and publishes them on Wikileaks, our collective jaws might hit the floor for days!

No - One thousand times - no.

The Postman said...

Regarding the legality of the Town Council and car park charges, I have made enquiries, and the following information may be useful.

It's also worth noting that the meetings where the setting of parking charges are discussed are entirely open to all to attend and are not discussed in private session. The Council also actively encourages the
participation of the Chamber of Trade, Hospitality Association, Residents
Association to attend the Transport Committee and contribute to the debate
by sending them copies of the agenda papers.

Put simply, the relevant legislation controls income from on-street parking more closely than that received from off-street parking places (car parks). Section 55 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 establishes the ways in which income from parking on public highways can be used and this is limited to transport-related activities (as amended by the Traffic Management Act 2004).

Swanage Town Council levies charges under sections 57-60 of the 1984 Act, which give specific powers to town and parish ouncils, including extending the right given to principal authorities under section 35 to make an order setting charges for car parks. That part of the legislation does not contain the same restrictions as set out in section 55.

The current DCLG press release refers to guidance issued by the Department for
Transport entitled 'Operational Guidance to Local Authorities: Parking Policy and
Enforcement', which can be found at the following link:

Chapter 14 is the relevant section in relation to parking charges, although its principal focus is penalty charge notices. Para 14.7 highlights the restrictions relating to on-street parking: 'local authorities must ensure that any on-street revenue not used for enforcement is used for legitimate purposes only and that its
main use is to improve, by whatever means, transport provision in the area so that road users benefit'.

In relation to off-street charges para 14.5 states that this 'is a matter for the authority in accordance with the provisions of the Road Traffic
Regulation Act 1984. Authorities should review charges periodically and take account of their effectiveness in meeting policy objectives' etc.

The Town Council annually reviews its charges and has a detailed discussion as to whether to raise (or lower) charges and if so where any changes should be implemented. The Town Council has a policy that it will 'provide low cost parking for residents of Swanage
and surrounding villages'. To deliver this, the Council has the residents parking scheme,including free winter parking. The Council also has separate parking charges for its long-stay visitor car parks and its short-stay shoppers car parks - any increase is not indiscriminately applied across the board. In setting the higher
charges for its long-stay car parks the Council takes into consideration the high demand for parking in the summer season and charges accordingly to help pay for the range of services used by visitors - e.g. Beach Gardens, the beach, public toilets, Tourist Information Office, etc. It would seem unjustified to simply describe this as random 'revenue
raising activity'. The District Auditor is fully aware of, and has accepted, these policies for many years in signing off the Council's Accounts and, until 2007, the Performance Plan produced under the former Best Value regime.

I hope that this clarifies the Town Council's position, and makes clear that car parking fees are levied in a fair and open way, for the benefit of the people of Swanage.

Anonymous said...

We trade in the town centre and customers frequently tell us they have to get back to their cars before the time they have paid for runs out and hence do not have time to look at our offerings. I suspect a lot of money is lost to Swanage traders through high parking charges. In the present economic circumstances it would be helpful if the council was to reduce its charges, as has happened in other places.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The Postman said...

...just to be clear, above post was deleted because of duplication in trying to post the long message..

Anonymous said...

Coop is 50p at the moment. I'd gladly drop in £1 for charity but begrudge giving it to STC.

Anonymous said...

so how much do the council actually make out of car parking, less Starsky and Hutch, the cost of their vehicle, Rates? etc

Anonymous said...

The explanatory note is very helpful but I wonder what the "policy objectives" are. Has the Chamber of Trade been asked whether its members feel the level of charges has a negative effect on the economic and commercial vitality of the town. Simply saying they are invited to meetings does not help a great deal as I don't doubt that the chairman and secretary could spend all day every day at other peoples meetings if they wanted to.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, my comment seems to have been now added as a leader, but not intended.

The comment invited a response to..how does Wales manage to provide free parking, prescriptions fees and student fees? Free parking encourages happy faces! What a lovely idea.

Anonymous said...

It is a relief to know that the car parking charges are lawful and teaches me not to believe anything I read in the Telegraph.

I do think, however, that there is an issue of the balance between maximising revenue and incentivising visitors to maximise their time here Incidentaly I wrote my piece about the Telegraph article before I had read the one about Wales.

swanage old timer said...

Eastbourne parking for the winter has been reduced to 20p for 2 hours in some places. How about that Swanage Town Couincil? It encourages more people to spend time in the town and particularly around the shops, cafes etc.

David Furmage said...

Yeah but you could get free parking all over town if you wanted too. Just make up some story that you are ill and volia you get given a blue badge which you can abuse as much as you want too. Your find most of them use them on " The mircale mile "

Anonymous said...

Rowland Hughes says:
Why do STC charge in the Resident's Car Park in the summer then? What's the weather got to do with it, other than that we are more likely to be forced to use this facility due to all other spaces being occupied. Sounds like opportunism to me, and if the logic is that local council tax payers have already contributed, then it should be all year round. Having said that, I do agree with visitor car park charges in any location in the country. How else is the infrastructure paid for? What I object to is the incredible variations in charges from town to town, city to city - and of course I also object to predatory wardens who give out a £60 ticket 5 minutes after the meter has clocked orf.

Anonymous said...

Its also all about encouraging people to walk and use buses rather than the car. Hence parking charges for residents and visitors are useful to avoid our streets being clogged up with stationary traffic. We seem to becoming a nation of people who are reluctant to use their legs. Yes, parking needs to be there for the elderly, disabled, people who dont have access to public transport etc but it is too easy to jump in the car, drive one or two minutes and park somewhere that could be used for amenities or housing.

David Furmage said...

To be honest glad I dont drive , I just walk and cycle :)