Former Conservative Leader of Cotswold District Council Tony Berry has urged the Lib Dem administration to “View council car parks as a service rather than a Cash Cow” and to “listen to residents and business owners” when it comes to parking policy across the district.
Cllr Tony Berry (Kemble Ward) was leader of CDC until May 2019 when the Lib Dems took control of the district council. At that time, the Cotswolds had the lowest parking charges across Gloucestershire, and there was also funded plans to build a modest decked car park in Cirencester and plans to build a temporary decked car park to add emergency spaces while the construction went ahead.
However the Lib Dems scrapped plans for a modest multi-story and replaced it with plans for a substantial six storey car park. This project is now on hold, despite over £500,000 being spent on designs and site surveys.
In addition, the Lib Dem administration has increased parking charges by almost 30% across the Cotswolds, swiftly moving the district from having the cheapest car park charges to the most expensive. This decision was taken despite huge objections being made by local business communities who feel unsupported by the council as they try to recover from various COVID-19 lockdowns.
The accusation of a lack of support for business owners was reinforced when CDC continued to charge parking fees in the run up to Christmas when other nearby councils waived them.
In a latest twist, the Lib Dems have now confirmed they will press ahead with plans to remove the ability to pay by cash for parking, despite 72% of people paying by cash in the 2019/20 financial year.
Cllr Tony Berry said,
“It’s clear the Lib Dems don’t see the management of our car parks as a service to our residents, they see them as a cash cow for raising funds for their radical tax, borrow and spend agenda. Whilst supporting the introduction of the ‘pay by phone’ option, there are many residents (and certainly tourists) who would prefer to keep the option and convenience of paying by cash.”
“At a time when our residents and business owners are struggling to recover from COVID-19 and the related lockdowns, it’s imperative we do all we can to support local communities and stimulate economic recovery. Making it more difficult and inconvenient to visit our market towns does nothing to help our local communities.”