The Vision for the Borough is 'a great place to live, an even better place to do business' and that is followed in the Vision by needing to facilitate the regeneration of our towns. When Wokingham Town Council made their comments on the proposed parking charges they believed that '...with the regeneration of the town under way, this is not the right time to implement additional (parking) charges'.
Recognising that these proposed charges would have an impact on the regeneration what discussions have you had with Executive Member for Regeneration and the Regeneration Team about this?
The Regeneration Team and the Highways Team have to work very closely together, they work glove in hand as you can probably imagine and I am told by Matt Davey in Highways that he has spoken to the Head of Regeneration and he does not believe that this will have any impact on the regeneration of the town. In fact it would have a lot less impact than putting up the overall prices because of course the bulk of the business in the town is done during the day.
The regeneration of Wokingham Town will make it a more attractive destination and it is expected visitors will spend more time in the town during the day, at weekends and in the evenings. Daytime car parking charges in Wokingham Town have remained unchanged for several years and the day time charges again will remain unchanged this year. On balance the Council believes that the very small charge for parking all night and all day on Sunday will not have a negative impact on the attractiveness of the town as a destination.
Can I start by referring to your goodself as the Leader of the Council. You have said that “it is with deep regret that the Council has been forced to make these proposals”. I would like to reassure yourself the Council has decided to make these proposals nobody has forced you to do it.
The advantage of any consultation, and we have had a consultation that has already been referred to with more than 400 responses, is that you are able to explain why you need it and you are able to explain what the likely revenue will be. This is somewhat difficult as you have explained today you have only recently done a survey of usage on Sundays. Never mind we move on. What alternatives have been considered and what can you see coming down the track?
Nowhere in the consultation document will you read anything about what alternatives have been considered. For example: trying to find more space in existing car parks particularly popular ones; increasing the current charges which have been referred to; increasing the subsidised charges for staff and Councillors and marketing initiatives. Luckily you have had some good feedback from hundreds of customers who have given their time freely to suggest alternatives; even I have suggested alternatives to you including the ones I have just mentioned. I will ask you whether you will take this opportunity to defer these charges. You referred to something happening in Woodley, but I couldn’t hear what you were saying because you do not speak loudly enough. Whether you want to defer these Wokingham changes until at least after the Station car park development has been completed and use the time to have a proper look at the helpful customer feedback you have already had?
I would just reiterate that every minute, every hour, every day that goes by where we don’t make these charges it puts huge pressures on other services in the Council and some of these services fall on the most vulnerable people in the Borough and as I said I did not come in to carry this role out either to increase prices or to take services away from the most vulnerable in the Borough.
Somewhere we have to decide that prices go up. I am sure Keith would like to tell you about the six months we spent talking about the budget at our Group meetings, examining everything even in micro detail and I would suggest that this is one of the things we need to do to generate the income to make sure the fabric of our roads continue to at least not deteriorate more than they have already.
The Leader of Council stated the following: The one comment I would say to you in terms of our pressure is just take Adult Social Care, which I am sure every one of us does not want to have reduced. Our growth just to stand still for next year is £2.4m. Put that in context 2% council tax rise is £1.6m so we still have to find £800k just to stand still so a contribution for this for repairing potholes etc has to be the way forward.