Opposition Conservative councillors at Cotswold District Council are making a last-ditch attempt to halt the planned parking charge increases which are due to come into effect in September.

At a budget meeting in February, the Lib Dem administration agreed to increase parking charges across the Cotswolds by almost 30% as a way of raising an additional £435,000 of funds so they can implement their radical Liberal manifesto commitments.

However the opposition Conservative group are urging the Lib Dems to think again, and have put forward a motion which will be debated at the next full council meeting asking the administration to reverse their decision and instead offer support to retailers and small business owners.

Cllr Richard Morgan, leader of the opposition Conservative group said,

“Our high streets and our small business owners are in a world of pain right now. It’s difficult to imagine how we could make things harder or more challenging for them but increasing parking charges and discouraging people from visiting our high streets is certainly up there.

“We need to face up to economic reality. Overseas tourists will not be returning to the Cotswolds any time soon and local unemployment across Gloucestershire has increased to 5% in May and will possibly get worse once the furlough scheme ends. Now is a time to support our high streets and our small business owners and not use their car parks as a local government cash cow.”

“If the Lib Dems press ahead with their 30% increase, it will hit our business owners and our vulnerable and unemployed residents hardest. We voted against the reckless, regressive, Lib Dem budget in February and we would ask the Lib Dems to think again before they make another in a long line of bad decisions.”

The plea to abandon the increased parking charges is also supported by the independent Cirencester Town Centre Business Forum.

A spokesperson for the forum Mike Davis said,

“We strongly believe these massive charge increases should be abandoned. The Lib Dem administration at CDC must be aware that all businesses in the town are desperately trying to recover from several bleak months of lockdown.

Previously the district council has worked alongside business owners, keeping parking charges low and introducing schemes such as ‘free after three’.  If all business increased their charges, I have no doubt many more shops would close.

The Lib Dem administration need to encourage visitors to the town and find new, safe initiatives to help shoppers return. Free parking after 10am on days where visitor numbers are low, not increasing charges. Our forum would urge them to think again.”

The Conservative motion will be debated at a full council meeting on 15 July, but this meeting will follow a smaller Lib Dem only cabinet meeting on 6 July where it is believed the parking charges will be approved.

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