Parking income study should not be misrepresented

I would like to correct some aspects of Councillor Benton’s letter (Are Calderdale’s new parking charges illegal?) which I think over-simplifies the issues – maybe for political purposes!

Whilst it is the case that the 1984 Road Traffic Regulation Act “does not allow councils to use parking charges as a revenue raising measure”, his interpretation of its section 32 is I’m afraid slightly misleading, which then taints his argument as to whether the legal judgment against Conservative-controlled Barnet Council could apply here.

Then he cites the Council’s 2012 “Parking Income Generation Study”, which might imply by its title that revenue raising for the sake of it was its purpose; but that’s not the case.

It’s abundantly clear from the report that it is properly focused on managing supply and demand in the parking stock (which is consistent with 1984 Act) whilst also increasing consistency between tariffs, in various locations; and that it’s not about maximising revenue from parking for the purposes of, to quote Councillor Benton, “using hard-pressed motorists as a source of extra revenue.”

Indeed it specifically concludes by advising councillors that the incomes targets set as guidance for the purposes of its review cannot be met, by very large amounts.

My judgement is that whatever actions emerge from it would be safe from legal challenge, contrary to what Councillor Benton asserts.

In fact what the study tends to show is that parking services provided by the council have been subsidised by council tax payers for a number of years. For example it points out that the parking budget was in deficit to the tune of nearly half a million pounds in 2008-9, which continued into the next year.

What the previous 2009 parking review identified was that many parking charges had not increased for the previous five years or so; since then I think increases have approximately been limited to annual inflation. Until the £25 residents parking permit charge was introduced following the study, administering the scheme cost council taxpayers £80,000 a year.

Finally he neglects to point that in a numbr of instances the study actually recommends reductions in parking charges; for example long stay on and off street charges in Halifax.

Any professional review would be likely to conclude all sorts of changes to Calderdale’s parking regime (including charges up, or down); and also the introduction of charges at some of the previously free locations - 14 out of the existing 32 free car parks - which has been proceeding systematically around the district over the last decade.

Which brings us to Xander Rudkin’s letter (Welcome to Mytholmroyd. It’ll cost you). If previously the council and council tax payers have been subsidising parking in a location, it’s only human nature that people there will want that situation to continue; but the greater benefit will come from adopting a level playing field across Calderdale.

It seems to me that the the council’s parking income study is an admirably thoughtful one, produced in difficult financial times, and doesn’t deserve to be misrepresented.

Politicians of all parties ought to remember that bus and train users, whose fares in recent years have increased way beyond Calderdale’s parking charges, are as worthy of their consideration and not just those who drive cars.

Anthony Rae

Co-ordinator, Calderdale Friends of the Earth