Monday, 1st September 2014

Backlash over fees shortfall

Residents and traders in north Shropshire have lashed out at Shropshire Council for ignoring their concerns, claiming they are ‘not surprised’ the authority’s controversial parking charges have failed to bring in the predicted £3.15 million.

Motorists are said to be doing ‘anything they can’ to avoid paying and make sure the council will never make money on the charges introduced last April.

Shropshire Council officials have admitted they had expected to raise £3,147,800 from car parking charges for the 2011/12 financial year. But the actual figure is on course to be £2,827,641 – resulting in a £320,159 shortfall.

Peggy Carson, Wem Town Councillor, said the people will do anything to stop the authority making money on the scheme.

She said: “I am quite certain they will never make the money. People aren’t stupid, they didn’t want them and they will make sure the council will never make a profit on them. The prices are low, but it’s the principle.

“People are coming in, hurrying to do shopping and get away before paying. It is what I do, I have never paid to park.”

Simon Jones, Shropshire Council cabinet member for transport, revealed the failures at the Whitchurch and Prees Local Joint Committee meeting on March 8.

He said: “We’ve underachieved by £320,000 on the parking revenue. The proposed income was too high.”

But said the off-street parking charges are ‘here to stay.’

Figures showed that in Whitchurch alone Shropshire Council has yet to profit from the charges more than six months after they began in the town.

Town Centre trader, Lynton Macrae, owner of Pets 2000 in the High Street, said: “I know several people that have said they won’t shop in Whitchurch again because of the charges.  It’s quite upsetting.

“People go to Home Bargains to park for free all day and Tesco have lifted their restrictions on time limits too.   They’re calling Home Bargains the new High Street.”

Councillor Jones has promised to review the charges in April, considering scrapping Sunday charges and changing charging bands.

Wem Town Councillor John Murray, owner of Wem Treacle Mine, said: “Once again it is another blunder by Shropshire Council.  We must do something to save businesses and the fabric of the town itself.

“They have to pay the wardens and the administration costs far outweigh the amount they will make in a small town.”