To consider a member call-in in respect of an Executive decision taken on 12th September 2018 in respect of changes to the parking tariffs in Camberley town centre multi-storey car parks.
The Committee considered a Call-In in respect of a decision taken by the Executive on 12th September 2018 to change the parking tariffs in Camberley Town Centre multi-storey car parks.
The Call-In, which had been submitted in accordance with Part 4 Section C of the Council’s Constitution by Councillor Edward Hawkins and Councillor Valerie White, cited the following elements of the decsion which gave grounds for concern:
i. The decision to raise car-parking charges had been taken at a time when the income from car parking was falling; footfall in the shopping centre had fallen and work would be underway on the High Street, which would potentially cause disruption to shoppers and traders.
ii. Recommendations i and ii in the original Executive report had been combined without adequate debate.
In their submission, Councillors Hawkins and White also set out the following reasons for their decision to submit the Call-In:
· The report considered by the Executive contained insufficient information as to the proper timing of the scheduled works.
· There was a lack of information on the viability of Camberley Town centre and the impact of the revenue raised in the current financial year.
· Bracknell, a competitor town, was reported to have decided not to increase charges in the car parks it manages.
The Committee acknowledged that the decision taken by the Executive had been a finely balanced one. However the Committee felt that the original Executive report lacked sufficient detail, particularly in relation to footfall data, income generation and ongoing costs, and this had prevented the Executive from looking at car parking in relation to the wider economic situation. Consequently, it was considered that the Executive had not been in a position to make a fully informed decision.
Councillor Hawkins reported that feedback from residents on the proposals had been negative with many expressing the opinion that they did not get good value for money from Camberley Town Centre and consequently elected to shop in neighbouring towns. Traders had also expressed concerns about the impact that raising car parking charges at a time when trade levels continued to decrease year on year would have on future trade.
The Committee noted that it had been proposed to increase all parking charges except evening charges which would be reduced in order to support the night time economy. It was felt this discrepancy was contradictory at a time when traders were experiencing year on year falls in trading levels. Furthermore, the Council should be working to develop strategies that supported local businesses.
It was noted that four different organisations, Collectively Camberley, Standard Life, Montagu Evans and Surrey Heath Borough Council, worked to promote Camberley town centre. The Committee questioned what synergies there were between the four organisations and whether this was effective. It was also questioned whether some of the BID money might be used to support car parking.
The Committee noted the proposal to introduce a monthly parking pass. However, it was queried why buying either three or six individual monthly passes was cheaper than buying a three or six month pass. It was clarified that the one-month parking pass was administered online and therefore the cost of a one-month pass was lower than the three and six-month passes, which required an element of officer input which had to be incorporated into the pricing.
The Committee also raised concern that in combining recommendations i and ii without an adequate explanation, the Executive had been deprived of the opportunity to fully debate the merits and drawbacks of each aspect of the recommendation at the time the decision was taken. Notwithstanding this,the Committee strongly supported the principle of introducing subsidised annual permits for those working in the town centre who were earning the living wage or below and agreed that introducing these subsidised permits should be carried out as quickly as possible.
It was agreed that the establishment of a Task and Finish Group to examine the provision and offering of the car parks in Camberley Town Centre would be an appropriate way forward. It was suggested that if a Task and Finish Group was to be established then its remit should include:
· The total parking package offered in town centre car parks
· Looking at the whole parking offering and charging regime to include a reasonable provision of free parking with not less than one hour.
· The provision for disabled parking.
· The support that the Council gives to retailers to include the Government’s Business Rates Retention pilot.
· A report from Collectively Camberley on the work that they do to promote the town.
· Review the subsidised permits of £150 per annum for those on a living wage.
It was acknowledged that the suggested Task and Finish Group would report its findings after the Executive decision had been re-examined by the Executive and agreed that if it did go ahead the Task and Finish Group’s proposed terms of reference would be considered at the Committee’s next meeting on 5th December 2018.
It was agreed that the Called-In decision should be referred back to the Executive for reconsideration with the recommendation that the decision be taken only when more complete data relating to footfall and income and expenditure was made available and that the proposed increase in charges and the proposed introduction of subsidised permits for those earning below the living wage be considered as two distinct recommendations.
i. The Called-In decision to implement changes to the parking tariffs in Camberley Town centre multi-storey car parks be referred back to the Executive for reconsideration because:
· The decision taken had been based on a report that contained insufficient information to enable a fully informed decision to be made.
· Increasing parking charges at a time when the town centre traders were facing already difficult trading conditions would further depress footfall through the town centre.
· Considering Recommendations i and ii as a single indivisible recommendation had prevented adequate debate.
ii. The Executive be advised to:
1. Make its decision only when more complete data relating to footfall and income and expenditure was made available; and that
2. The proposed increase in charges and the proposed introduction of subsidised permits for those earning below the living wage be considered as two distinct recommendations.
iii. A Task and Finish Group be established to examine council provided parking in Camberley town centre.