Council plans to scrap weekend free parking for shoppers in Northampton town centre
and live on Freeview channel 276
Councillors are set to raid the pockets of Northampton town centre shoppers by hiking car park costs in a bid to plug a £60 million shortfall in funding.
Recommendations going before West Northamptonshire Council’s cabinet on Tuesday (December 20) include scrapping free parking on Saturdays and Sundays in the town’s car parks and raising charges midweek by ten percent from April 2023. The move is likely come as a blow to businesses who have campaigned for more free parking in the town centre in a bid to encourage more shoppers into the town centre.
The report, which says plans could raise an extra £1 million in revenue, was due to be discussed on its own but has now been bundled up in the 121-page draft budget and medium term financial plan which also includes proposals to increase council tax by five per cent, change fortnightly bin collections to three-weekly in Northampton and consider how many household waste recycling centre sites are required and where they should be located.
Currently, shoppers can park free for up to two hours on Saturday. Those staying longer or parking in midweek pay the equivalent of £1 an hour. A new pricing scheme would see all drivers pay £1.10 up to a maximum £5.50 for five hours. Sundays’ free parking will be replaced by a flat £2.20 all-day fee. Parking fees will also be introduced at the Racecourse for the first time and charges will go up at the area’s country parks.
Council leader Jonathan Nunn says the proposals will help “protect frontline services”. A six-week public consultation will be launched on Wednesday (December 21) giving residents a chance to have their say before the final budget is discussed at a council meeting in February.
Cllr Malcolm Longley, cabinet member for finance, said: “Like all councils nationally, we are facing serious financial pressures and must do everything possible to address these whilst continuing to meet our duties to protect and deliver vital services to our residents.
“We have worked hard to shape a credible, balanced budget for next year, but doing so has meant making some really tough choices on how we can save more money and raise extra income.”
This year’s budget is currently heading for a £3.7 million overspend AFTER gobbling up a £10.1 million contingency.
The budget report says: “The Council, along with all other local authorities up and down the country, is experiencing increasing cost and demand pressures driven by external factors beyond its control.”
These include Russia’s invasion of Ukraine causing unpredictable global economic pressures, inflation and cost of living pressures, the ongoing financial impact of Covid on demand and a local government pay award which was “significantly greater” than expected. It also points to demands for children’s services and adult social care.
Cllr Longley added: “This year has shown how important it is that we retained some contingencies and reserves to ensure we can meet our duties, as without them we would have had to cut services this year.
“Some councils nationally are facing much bigger deficits than the reserves that they have and having learned lessons from the past, we cannot let that happen in Northamptonshire.”