Council car parking income collapses in Chorley, South Ribble and Preston
Local authorities across Central Lancashire are likely to have lost hundreds of thousands of pounds in car parking fees during the coronavirus lockdown – with no guarantee of when the valuable source of income will get back up to speed.
Drivers have dropped almost £150,000 less than expected into the coffers of Chorley and South Ribble councils since March. However, with Preston City Council unable yet to confirm a corresponding figure, the total dent in town hall finances across the area is expected to be much higher.
Councils have faced a financial double whammy – not only have there been far fewer cars on the roads, but concessions have also been introduced for those motorists who did still need a place to park during the lockdown.
Chorley Council calculates that it has lost £112,000 in car-related income to date – from both parking fees and also the fines that would usually have been generated by those breaching the rules.
Deputy council leader Peter Wilson said that the authority had felt it was important to support “key workers who were working around the clock to keep us safe and traders as they begin to reopen”.
“All our car parks have, until recently, been free of charge during lockdown. We have recently reintroduced the parking tariffs on short stay car parks only, to help increase usage of spaces nearest the town centre shops for shoppers, to help the local economy.
“We’ve left long stay car parks free of charge at the moment to help key workers and also for those who are working in town.
“The government has recognised the impact of loss of income for local authorities and has suggested that councils will be, to some extent, reimbursed for this loss. While this is welcome news, we await further details.”
Last week, the government announced that councils would share in a new £500m fund to compensate them for falls in their income, after some local authorities expressed concern that they would only be covered for direct expenses incurred as a result of the pandemic. However, the Local Government Association said that while the cash was welcome, “substantial additional funding” would be needed, over and above the total £3.2bn in council support already committed by ministers.
In South Ribble, the council has seen a £36,000-shaped hole appear in its books because of the fall in cash from car parking in the borough.
“During lockdown, we offered free parking for 11 weeks to help residents and keyworkers,” explained the authority’s cabinet member for the environment, Sue Jones.
“We have now reintroduced charges on all South Ribble car parks. The parking fees currently in place are modest, and of course for short trips, the blue bays are free for one hour.
“It is necessary to reintroduce these charges so that we can continue to provide good car parking facilities and cover our costs of staffing and maintaining them,” she added.
Meanwhile, Preston City Council says that it is too early to forecast the full impact of lockdown on parking-related income.
However, deputy chief executive Neil Fairhurst added: “The council has seen a significant fall in customer usage across its car parks and this is reflected in the income received to date – and it is clear that supporting council car parks, supports local services.
“During May and June, one hour free parking was offered on the council’s Avenham multi-storey and Market surface car parks for a 5-week period to support the city centre businesses that were open at the time. The council’s car park tariffs continue to offer value for money rates, for convenient centrally located facilities.”
Ribble Valley Borough Council was also approached for comment.