Posted: Thu 25th Oct 2018

Councillors still get free parking perk – silence from committee tasked with monitoring £49k budget gap for people living in or visiting the wrexham area
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Oct 25th, 2018

The free parking perk offered to councillors still has not been scrapped, with the proposed 28 pence a day permit not due any time soon.

Free parking for members of the public who are disabled / blue badge holders has successfully been revoked, despite an ongoing struggle to do the same for councillors.

Councillors on the Customers, Performance, Resources and Governance Scrutiny Committee met to discuss Budget Monitoring and Control for this financial year, that noted a £165k overspend / gap in the environment department, that includes car parks.

The report before councillors explained: “Estimated car park income is lower than the budget target. The revocation of free parking for disabled blue badge holders (£25k) did not become operational until 21 May 2018 and the introduction of staff/member parking fees (£49k) has not yet commenced and it is unlikely that the additional income will be received this financial year.”

Later in the meeting we tweeted a tumbleweed gif when there was a struggle to get questions asked on an agenda item, but on the issue of councillor parking there was silence from the committee.

With a £49,000 gap in the budget not being questioned by a single committee member, the option to ask questions was widened out to those non-committee member councillors who attended.

Cllr Dana Davies said she was ‘surprised’ that no questions had been asked around the parking permits.

Cllr Davies kicked off by enquiring if any ‘incentives’ had been offered via free parking to traders, councillors, staff or others in Tŷ Pawb or other car parks. The Council Officer told the meeting the only free parking offered in that manner was via events such as the Food Festival, and often in the run up to Christmas.

Cllr Davies then targeted the free parking for councillors, “Can you recolour our permits and charge us for it?”

“I am still waiting for you to charge us, dish them out and send us a bill.

“I understand the issue with staffing is not simple, but as members we are issued with a permit, and we can pay for that.”

The Officer explained ‘work is proceeding’ and there are meetings this week to ‘move it forward’.

The Finance Officer explained although things ‘appear quite straightforward’ the consultations that have taken place have ‘raised loads of issues’ and thus bringing in the charge ‘is taking a bit longer than anticipated’.

The Officer added on the mention of Tŷ Pawb that car park performance there was ‘more than anticipated’ as the car park is open longer than original estimates.

Council Leader Mark Pritchard weighed in on the councillor free parking issue, saying he was surprised to hear Cllr Davies ask for a ad-hoc ‘do it and send us a bill’, “You are one who challenges us, rightly, on process. We would never be able to do that, and you would not let me.”

“I am determined that members should pay for parking in this authority. Cllr Pritchard indicated that the sticking point could be sorting issues with charging staff who currently get the perk, and thus two separate reports could be produced so one does not hold up the charging of the other.

Cllr Davies pointed out that so far she had been asking for councillors to pay for parking ‘for four years’.

Earlier this year we asked Cllr Bithell if councillors should pay for parking when he was talking to us about introducing parking charges for disabled people in country parks, and in May it was announced a £100 permit was to be introduced, and was told the message had been heard ‘loud and clear’ such perks were no longer acceptable.

At the time the change in car park fee plans were being brought in to generate £47k in country parks, and £25k in blue badge parking charges with Cllr Bithell stating back in January: “If we don’t implement these charges it means extra pressures or front line cuts.”

The current £49,000 gap in Cllr Bithell’s environment budget is based off councillors and some council staff getting the free parking perk.

As we wrote at the time: “…data indicates that approximately 495 employees, including senior officers and Members, are issued with car parking permits for the town centre for the purpose of carrying out Council business.”

“The current provision is linked to historical entitlement and there has been criticism from Trade Unions and employees about the perceived inequality of the current scheme.

“All other town centre based employees make their own personal arrangements to park.”

The plans included introducing an ‘Employee and Member Parking Permit Scheme with a monthly or annual charge for both employees and Elected Members’.

This would cost £100 a year and would “apply equally to council employees and elected members who wish to park in one of the Council’s town centre civic offices and pay and display car parks.”

In May we calculated if the public looked to apply for a Waterworld Car Park Season Ticket that is valid for six months they will be charged £300, with no option for a full £600 yearly sum. This is roughly £1.65 a day based off the year price.

For those wanting a cheaper option, but further to walk from the Guildhall area, a six month season ticket for Crescent Road is £200, again no option for a £400 yearly option.  This is roughly £1.10 a day, based off the year price.

Councillors are due to pay 28p a day.

Top pic: The car park that is free for councillors.

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