An update on proposals to introduce parking charges in Wincanton and new charges for South Somerset
Following on from a period of consultation with the public, the Car Parking Order for South Somerset has now been approved and will come into force, meaning that parking charges in South Somerset District Council owned car parks will increase based on recent inflation levels.
South Somerset District Council and Wincanton Town Council are continuing to work together to determine the best outcome for Wincanton which has had no parking charges due to the town council paying an amount to compensate for the lost revenue. The town council has established a sub-committee to look at this issue in detail and help reach appropriate conclusions. No charges will be introduced at this stage.
The increase in car parking charges across South Somerset will come in to effect within approximately two weeks. Please take note of signs beside ticket machines for full details.
A full list of charges for car parks owned by South Somerset District Council can be found at www.southsomerset.gov.uk/carparkingorder.
What is the background?
In 2018, SSDC’s District Executive Committee agreed to raise the cost of parking throughout South Somerset and this has been deferred as long as possible to lessen the impact to users of the car parks.
Charges for parking have been frozen in South Somerset since 2012 and the additional price rise is less than the rise in inflation during the same time period.
As Councillor Peter Seib, portfolio holder for finance at South Somerset District Council outlined earlier this year: “For eight years, SSDC has not passed on cost inflation to the motorist. This political choice required us to make efficiency savings elsewhere in the Council, but recent changes in funding and tax mean that we now have to be realistic about either increasing fees... or cutting in front line areas like our work on rough sleeping, housing, economic development, sports, the arts, etc. We have always been very clear that we want to protect the front line.
“It's not just the enormous cuts in local government funding which are driving this. There have been significant rises in the Business Rates charged by Central Government on council car parks. These have come on top of cost inflation affecting repairs, gritting and enforcement. We can't simply transfer these extra costs to the Council Tax because rises are capped. The Government won't let councils use Automatic Number Plate Recognition to cut enforcement costs either.
“We know times are tough and that any rise is unwelcome, so we limited the price rise to just four year's inflation. What you'll be paying now is the same in real terms as it was in 2012.”
What does the cost of a parking charge pay for?
Part of the cost of a car parking charge goes into operating and maintaining car parks.
Operating car parks comes at a fairly high price, as this pays staff wages and for technologies such as phone and pay and also investing in emerging technologies across the district.
Maintaining car parks covers bay marking and resurfacing which regularly takes place. Recently, Stars Lane and Petters Way car parks in Yeovil were partly resurfaced and car parking bays re-marked.
The rest of the cost of parking gets reinvested into other related projects such as the provision of new car parks e.g. Crewkerne to improve parking facilities and reduce demand for on street parking and therefore congestion.
Why can’t free parking be implemented in all towns across South Somerset to help increase footfall?
To implement free parking in SSDC car parks in all towns would come at an estimated cost of £2m per year. This is unaffordable unless it was accompanied by either a substantial increase in Council Tax or a cut in services.
Similarly, evidence has shown that free parking has not encouraged additional footfall in towns. Indeed, many towns charge considerably higher car park charges than those proposed across South Somerset and it is not detrimental to footfall if the charges to park are considered reasonable, when considered in conjunction with the right central retail and leisure offer.
Our car parking charges are some of the lowest in the South West compared to a lot of other towns or cities.
It’s difficult to price compare across the whole of the South West because different Council’s charge in different ways e.g. a set fee and then per hour whereas in South Somerset, we charge by the hour. But as an example, an hour parking in Taunton will cost you £1.60, whereas in Yeovil the most expensive hour of parking will be £1.30 in various car parks in the town.