Monday, November 27, 2017

News: Rotherham Council parking profits up by 40%

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Parking operations at Rotherham Council made £496,000 in the last financial year according to new figures released this week.

The figure for the authority's 2016-17 Parking Operations Surplus was 40% higher than the £353,000 reported in the previous year.

The findings come from analysis for the RAC Foundation by transport consultant David Leibling of the official returns that councils make annually to the Department for Communities and Local Government.

In 2016-17, the 353 local authorities in England had a total income from on- and off-street parking activities of £1.582 billion – up 6% year-on-year. This comprised both parking charges (fees and permits) and penalty income. The difference between income and expenditure was £819m with the surplus made available to be spent by the councils.

Addressing ways to find more than £48m of budget savings over the next three years, Rotherham Council approved proposals to amend parking charges in the town centre to "generate additional income in order to help ensure a more self-financing Parking Service which currently has an "underlying budget pressure" of £137,000."

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On April 1 2016, on-street charges in Rotherham increased by 50p so that 30 mins went up to £1, an hour is £1.50 and two hours is £3. In Council-owned car parks, charges have been amended so that two hours has increased from £1.20 to £1.50 but longer stay charges have gone down. Four hours previously cost £2.80 but this has decreased to £2. All day parking has almost halved, coming down from £6.50 to £3.50.

Councillors on the Overview & Scrutiny Management Board (OSMB) said at the time that they were only supportive of the option to increase charges on the basis of free (off street) parking being provided on Saturdays. However, Stella Manzie, the outgoing commissioner and managing director said that free parking could not be supported due to the parking service running at a significant annual deficit. She also pointed out that the increases in charges (the first in six years) were broadly in line with neighbouring councils.

The research for the RAC Foundation shows that in 2012-13, the surplus at Rotherham was £438,000, which went down to £345,000 in the following year before going up to £368,000 in 2014-15.

Local authorities can use the revenue received from penalty charges to fund enforcement and any surplus can be used for transport related projects (the income is currently ring-fenced).

The new masterplan makes it clear that free parking across the board is not the answer for revitalising the town centre.

In 2015, Council bosses estimated that this would "probably" boost trade but if it was introduced, a £400,000 surplus generated for the Council would turn into a deficit of approximately £500,000.

The authority recently pledged to investigate additional parking incentives and parking spaces.

Ideas in the masterplan include operating a "hub" of public car parks with the same pricing structure, additional time-limited free parking in car parks where there is low occupancy (as used in the "red zone" on Forge Island), and barrier controlled entry and exit car parks so that people are not forced to leave the town when their ticket expires. Pay on exit barrier controlled parking reduces the risk of enforcement and people only pay for what they use.

Another idea is for additional on-street parking in central areas to provide easy access for shoppers and visitors.

Free weekend parking has returned for the festive period. Shoppers and visitors can park for free in all town centre Council-run on- and off-street spaces every weekend until December 31.

Images: WYG / RMBC

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