COUNCIL-run car parks in Kendal generate £1 million a year in revenue - a meeting has heard today.
Every single SLDC-owned car parking space in the town is estimated to be worth £1,000 a year to the authority, councillors were told.
The figures were revealed as SLDC’s ruling Lib Dem cabinet met today and agreed major changes to level three of South Lakeland House car park, which is next to its Kendal headquarters.
It is opening up level three of the car to the public seven days a week from April to raise £15,000 in parking charges.
Spaces previously reserved for high-ranking councillors will go along with others used by its senior management team.
Instead, they will be given access cards to park in the multi-storey of the Westmorland Shopping Centre.
SLDC leader Peter Thornton will lose his dedicated parking place under the plan but said he was happy to walk from the shopping centre.
Councillors attending meetings may also have to start parking at the shopping centre if they cannot find a place on one of the three levels at South Lakeland House, which on full council nights will be kept open longer.
Jim Maguire, SLDC's community and leisure manager, explained that under the new arrangements, there would be no reserved parking at South Lakeland House for councillors on meeting days.
However, there would be six visitor places for any member with mobility issues, which could be booked in advance.
Councillor Peter Thornton explained that all 51 councillors on SLDC were entitled to a parking pass which allowed them to park on any SLDC-run car park - provided they were on council business.
They could also pay £20 for a card which gave access to the Westmorland Shopping Centre car park when on council business - although they had to pay £90 if they wanted to use the card privately.
Coun Thornton said: “My private space, which I love and cherish, will go. I will have no priority over anyone. South Lakeland House car park is inefficiently used at a time when people are looking for places in town.”
Considering whether councillors could be late for meetings or get wet on rainy days, Coun Thornton said: "Well, that's what everybody else in Kendal has to do."
A senior Lib Dem on the authority broke ranks with the ruling Cabinet and called for the decision to be deferred.
Coun Andy Shine, partially-sighted, and speaking in his capacity as chairman of the council’s overview and scrutiny committee, called for the decision to be decided by all the authority’s 51 councillors at a full meeting, rather than the seven member Cabinet.
“Why is Cabinet considering this item today before (full) council has? It seems it doesn’t have the authority,” said Coun Shine, who said he was concerned about protocol.
Coun Shine was told by Debbie Storr, the council’s deputy chief executive, that the issue could be decided by the Cabinet alone.
Presenting the issue, Coun Giles Archibald, portfolio holder for town centres and small business, said the proposal had raised 'considerable criticism' - implying this was mainly from other councillors.
He said level three of South Lakeland House was under used while car parks across Kendal were at full capacity - apart from the Westmorland Shopping Centre.
“What we have in Kendal is a situation where the car parks are at or beyond capacity," said Coun Archibald. "What that means is people won’t come into town or drive around looking for a car parking space.
“All we are doing is making this popular car park available to people who want to come in and visit Kendal,” said Coun Archibald.
Conservative Tom Harvey said with increased traffic likely to be using South Lakeland House, he hoped that some investment could be made in the turning into the car park from Lowther Street; which he described as an 'accident waiting to happen'.
After the meeting, SLDC moved to clarify that the £1 million mentioned did not include the running costs for car parks which was £500,000 a year and included maintenance, repairs and staffing.