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South Lakeland parking fees - council leader answers questions
South Lakeland District Council leader Coun Peter Thornton answers a series of questions about parking charges in the area:
Question: How much money does South Lakeland District Council earn from car parking fees each year? How is the money earned from car parking charges spent?
Answer: Income is approximately £4 million, of which about half is spent on running the car parks leaving around £2 million surplus. This reduces the average SLDC council tax bill by about 25 per cent (around £40).
Question: Many people complain that car parking charges are too high. Why can’t you reduce the fees?
Answer: We could reduce the fees but then we’d need to increase council tax or reduce services else-where. We are experimenting with lower fees in selected car parks and the new machines give us improved management information to be able to judge their effectiveness.
Question: The council has spent £340,000 on new pay-and-display machines. People now have to key in their registration numbers. Is the only aim of these new machines to stop people passing on partially-used parking tickets?
Answer: Absolutely not! These machines were introduced because the old machines had come to the end of their life. They would not take credit cards, were increasingly difficult to adapt to new coinage and could not be used to issue things like weekly passes, which we intend to introduce shortly. I’m sure that most of our local traders are not using the same till that they were 20 years ago!
Question: How do you respond to traders in Kendal who say that high parking fees and dislike of the new pay-and-display machines are driving customers away?
Answer: Our parking fees are similar to our competitors. Barrow is identical, Lancaster is 20p more than Kendal and Carlisle is 20p less. Most other areas, including Barrow, have the same type of machines which require registration number to be entered.
Question: How quickly do you expect the new pay-and-display machines to pay for themselves?
Answer: The 66 new machines should last 20 years or more which is a depreciation of £257 a year per machine. They will enable our service to be run more efficiently, reduce theft and cash handling charges due to an increasing proportion of money collected by credit cards, enable the issue of longer term (weekly) permits and reduce maintenance costs. They should pay for themselves in five years.
Question: Wouldn’t the £340,000 have been better spent on other council services – for example, on keeping open public toilets?
Answer: The £5,100 per machine is an investment in a business producing a surplus which is invested in services. It is good business sense to invest in profit-making services and running our old machines into the ground would not have benefited anyone.
Question: What is so wrong about passing on a partially-used parking ticket to another motorist? Is there a law that allows SLDC to punish some-body who passes on a ticket?
Answer: Our tickets have always made it clear that they are not transferable. Should we question this? Yes, we should and we are looking at this issue in the light of the public response. There’s no law against passing on a ticket but the ticket would then not be valid for the person who receives it.
Question: Why didn’t you introduce a pay on exit system so people could pay only for the time they park?
Answer: We do prefer pay on exit systems as they are much fairer all round. The problem is that they require either barriers or complex number plate recognition systems and are currently not practical for our smaller car parks.
Question: Why were traders and residents not consulted before the new system was introduced? Is there a chance the machines will go away?
Answer: The rules and the charges haven’t changed, only the machine to collect the fees. No we won’t be taking the machines away because they are very flexible. However, we’ll be reviewing how they are configured.
Question: Some towns in the UK and abroad have free parking. Do you accept that high parking fees put off tourists?
Answer: Tourists appreciate that South Lakeland is an exceptional place and they recognise that our car park fees are comparable to other tourist areas. Free parking would result in our car parks being continually full and would increase SLDC council tax bills by about 50 per cent. It would mean our residents were subsidising the tourists who use our services.
Question: Are you just anti-motorist?
Answer: No I’m not anti-motorist and neither is the council. If you live in my ward (Whinfell) then you probably have no bus service and depend upon your car.
We’d love there to be a better public transport network so that we could reduce the number of cars coming into our towns, but for the foreseeable future the car is an essential part of life.
We are always ready to listen to all points of view. Let me know what you think on p.thornton@southlakeland. gov.uk