Car park fees slammed
A SENIOR councillor has criticised the ruling administration at a district council over its car park charges – claiming they could drive people away from a market town during the festive season.
A SENIOR councillor has criticised the ruling administration at a district council over its car park charges - claiming they could drive people away from a market town during the festive season.
Parking fees in Stowmarket have proved deeply unpopular, with market traders and one shop pulling out of the town.
Liberal Democrats, who are the main opposition party at Mid Suffolk District Council, are critical of the ruling Conservative/Independent administration's handling of the tariffs.
Penny Otton, Liberal Democrat group leader: "Their car parking policy may now have come back to haunt them.
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"The administration is already anticipating reduced income from the car parks in 2005/06 and further increases in staffing and management costs.
"In the meantime they have created further confusion by trying to appease the local retail trade in Stowmarket by reducing the all day parking charges during December and January only.
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"This seasonal tariff is experimental and applies to the Bury Street car park, but not the Iliffe Way car park. They say leaflets and appropriate signs will notify shoppers of the reduction from £4 to £2.50.
"All this confusion may do nothing more than further dissuade people from using the car parks and may cause them to go elsewhere. It could all have been avoided.''
But councillor Eddy Alcock, the Conservative portfolio holder for Public Services and Licensing, said: "Any perceived chaos over car park charges is in the minds of the Liberal Democrats only.
"It is very clear that the district council has only one intention with its seasonal offer to shoppers and traders in Stowmarket and that is to make it attractive to spend whole days in Stowmarket during December and January.
"Existing charges on the Bury Street car park start at 50p for up to one hour and rise at 50p intervals per hour up to £2 for up to four hours, then £4 for over four hours. The seasonal offer will reduce the over four hours option to £2.50, thus encouraging longer stays during the season of good will.
"The Liberal Democrats continue to struggle to understand financial planning in local government.
"Car park revenue has risen from £313,000 in 2003/04 to an anticipated minimum receipt for 2004/05 of £495,000. This is a cautious estimate as receipts are increasing with the passage of the months, so the out-turn could very well top £500,000.
"In any event it is expected to result in a potential saving to the council tax payer of 4.5% to 5%.''