Single vote drives forward parking fees
By Alison Withers and Sarah ChambersA PLAN to introduce car parking charges in a number of towns and villages has been kept alive by a single vote.Babergh District Council's community services scrutiny committee has agreed by five votes to four to back the move to bring charges to its car parks in Sudbury, Hadleigh and Lavenham.
By Alison Withers and Sarah Chambers
A PLAN to introduce car parking charges in a number of towns and villages has been kept alive by a single vote.
Babergh District Council's community services scrutiny committee has agreed by five votes to four to back the move to bring charges to its car parks in Sudbury, Hadleigh and Lavenham.
In a separate move, Suffolk Coastal District Council announced it was considering bids to run Leiston leisure centre, Deben pool in Woodbridge, Felixstowe leisure centre and the town's Brackenbury sports centre.
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At their committee meeting yesterday, Babergh councillors backed the introduction of car parking charges in a move that will generate a profit for the authority within three years.
If the plan is approved by its strategy committee in January, motorists will have to pay 20p to park for up to three hours at the council's car parks, 50p for up to three hours and £1 for long-term parking.
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The car parks affected would be in Sudbury, Lavenham and Hadleigh. It would also see the charges already in place in Pin Mill reviewed.
Committee chairman, Bryn Hurren, said: “Mindful of the need to maintain a balance between this year's Council Tax levels and the public's demand for service improvements, the committee felt it should make a recommendation to support one of the charging options.”
It costs Babergh District Council about £22,000 a year to run and maintain the car parks - equivalent to about £6 on the average Council Tax bill.
But a consultation two years revealed 80% of the residents who took part opposed the introduction of parking charges to meet that cost.
Meanwhile, Suffolk Coastal District Council is expected to choose a private company to run its four leisure facilities by mid-December.
Council officials are currently scrutinising two detailed bids to run Leiston leisure centre, Deben pool in Woodbridge, Felixstowe leisure centre and Brackenbury sports centre.
If one of the bids is found to be acceptable, it will down to the council's ruling cabinet to take the final decision in February or March next year, with a view to the private firm taking over the running of the centres in April.
The move is part of a strategy by the council to get “best value” for Council Tax payers through efficiency savings, while retaining its service levels.
Suffolk Coastal District Council's leisure services currently bring in £1.4million worth of income, but the authority subsidises them to the tune of £1.9m.
It has the option of setting up a charitable trust to run the centres, or keeping the status quo, but its “first option” is to bring in a private sector operator.
Under the proposed arrangement, the council would remain owners of the centres, which would be brought into a charitable trust to prevent them having to pay VAT and business rates.
Suffolk Coastal District Council would pay a management fee to the company to run the centres on a 10-year contract.
Under this arrangement, the council hopes to make an annual saving of £200,000, mainly through savings on VAT and business rates on the subsidy it pays.
But the council stressed it would set the fees paid by users for the first year and would be able to veto any “unreasonable” price increases under the arrangement.
It added if the deal went ahead, all the 250 staff working at the sports complexes would transfer to the private company under their current terms and conditions.