Car parking charges are for many of us the most unpopular regular encounter we have with our councils. There's the frustration of having to have all that change to hand, trying to remember the full registration number of our vehicles, queueing up in the pouring rain while someone in front feeds the machine with 5p pieces, finding that the ticket machine is out of order and the feeling of being ripped off because the machines do not give change.
Not to mention the spiralling cost of parking, as councils seek to raise more revenue to cover their declining budgets.
All the evidence is that car parking charges are damaging to town centres. Why spend 70p or more on a parking ticket if you want to buy a loaf of bread and a newspaper when you can park for nothing at an out-of-town supermarket.
Despite saying that they are keen to ensure the vitality of our town centres, councils continue to ramp up car parking charges and drive trade away from them. As a regressive tax, the charges also hit those on low incomes hardest.
In Carmarthenshire the latest turn of the screw is the introduction of parking charges beyond 6pm and charging for parking on Sundays. Kevin Madge has also introduced charges for blue badge holders despite promising in Labour's manifesto in 2012 that he would do no such thing.
Perhaps Kevin Madge and Colin Evans don't go out after 6pm or on Sundays because if they did they would know that even the larger towns in the county are very quiet most evenings and on Sundays. The smaller towns are dead, but they have stilled ploughed ahead with the new charges.
To make the new parking regulations work, they have to be policed. If drivers know that there is no chance of being fined, why buy a ticket?
The problem is that it is very expensive to police parking in council car parks, especially those out in the sticks.
Figures recently released by Ceredigion County Council show that it took in £306,000 from parking fines in 2013/14, but the cost of what the Cambrian News calls "providing a service" (i.e. handing out parking tickets and collecting fines) left the council with a surplus of just £11,000.
Last Sunday afternoon there were just two cars parked in the main Mart car park in Newcastle Emlyn, and one of those was not displaying a ticket.
To stamp out this lawlessness, the council would have to spend a great deal more on sending out an enforcement officer on a Sunday on the off-chance that one or two drivers had neglected to buy a ticket than it would ever get back in fines.
But as we know, the council is never wrong, and Kevin Madge is sticking to his guns and doing what his officers have told him to do.
Kev and CCC obviously see parking charges as a cash cow as they’re prepared to cough up £230,000 to part fund a new car park in Laugharne – see http://online.carmarthenshire.gov.uk/agendas/eng/EXEB20141215/SUM12.HTM
However, one of the conditions is “the implementation of a town wide parking charging scheme”. Why not just put off visitors in the first place by charging for parking, then no need to fund any extra parking spaces?
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