Anger at council meeting over parking permit plans

ANGER surrounding a proposal to scrap permit parking in Great Yarmouth reached boiling point on Monday when people descended on a borough council scrutiny committee meeting.

More than 50 people crammed into the Town Hall’s Council Chamber and jeered Conservative councillors as they defended their recommendation for residential permit parking to be axed.

Meanwhile, Labour councillors were backed by applause when mounting their offence against the council, which they accused of ignoring the needs of residents in the town.

The public could observe but not comment during the meeting, which saw some people storm out in protest, while others were threatened with eviction if they failed to watch in silence.

However, the biggest outcry came when deputy leader Charles Reynolds said he was sorry the recommendation had upset people, but felt it was unfair that the whole borough should foot the bill for the scheme. “I met with Great Yarmouth car parking manager Mike Chillingworth on June 6 and this was when I was faced with the scheme’s deficit of �97,000,” he said.

“What do you expect me to do? Shall I just forget all about the deficit and pretend it isn’t there? If you want we will boost up the rates for the scheme and watch as the take up for permit parking drops like a stone.”

He added: “This is all about trying to be fair to everybody and boosting the economy in the town. We can’t stand aside and let this loss continue year on year.”

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The recommendation to scrap the residents’ permit parking scheme was the subject of a ‘call-in’ by Labour councillors Michael Jeal, Valerie Pettit and Kerry Robinson-Payne.

The councillors were angered by the council’s recommendation, which they felt ignored a Norfolk County Council officer’s advice to wait until the introduction of Civil Parking Enforcement (CPE) in October before making a decision. It is believed the introduction of CPE could half the permit parking’s annual deficit in the first year, and help to make it cost neutral by the second year.

Meanwhile, the councillors also claimed there had not been a proper consultation with residents; that the Great Yarmouth Tourism Authority was informed before ward councillors and the decision was made without any councillors being able to vote on the issue. Mr Jeal questioned why the deficit could not be reduced by introducing pay and display parking meters in the permit zone, which would allow both residents and visitors to park there.

He said: “The reason I have called this in is because I think the decision to recommend the scheme be scrapped was decided before anyone in the residential parking zone was consulted. I was a bit upset during the meeting of the car park steering group that they took no notice of anything we said at the time.

“None of the residents’ parking has cost a single penny to the ratepayer in this town, because the deficit is covered by the profits made from the seafront parking.

“At no time has the county council considered putting the cost up to make the permit parking pay its way.

“The residents really feel upset by the decision. And to be honest, if you cannot look after the residents of this town then you cannot look after anybody. But if you are going to give people free parking in the A zone, and still think the holidaymakers will pay to park along the seafront then you must be in cuckoo land.”

The decision to recommend the scheme be disbanded was seen as cost-cutting measure aimed at preventing residents and businesses from having to pay to park near their premises, while eliminating the scheme’s annual deficit – which has grown over the years from nearly �27,000 in 2007/2008, to close to �97,000 in 2010/2011.

More than �50,000 of the 2010/2011 deficit is made up of departmental recharges, including the day-to-day running costs of the scheme.

Last year’s deficit was paid for by more than �200,000 made from the seafront on street pay and display parking. However, money saved from scrapping the scheme would be ring fenced and could only be spent by Norfolk County Council on improving traffic systems in the town.

Mr Reynolds, who was accompanied by council leader Steve Ames at the meeting, said a happy medium of residents’ permit parking and pay display parking simply wouldn’t work. He added: “The amount of people who have bought permits has steadily declined year on year. It will be an inconvenience to some people, but not to all.”

Labour councillor Trevor Wainwright said: “On paper the scheme has taken a loss over the past five years, but �218,000 of that figure is departmental recharges. Charles talks about people not wanting to pay �25 for a permit, but I have never had anyone say that to me.

“With the introduction of CPE we could reduce the deficit to �29,000 in the first year and the permit scheme could be made cost neutral the following year if the cost of permits went up to �40 for a residents pass and �180 for a business pass.”

Currently, a resident’s permit costs �25 annually, while a business permit costs �100. More than 610 residential permits, and 840 visitor permits, were issued between April 2010 and March 2011. Seventy business permits and 140 business visitor permits were issued over the same period.

The scrutiny committee passed a decision to refer the recommendation to scrap the scheme back to the council’s cabinet. The decision on whether to scrap the scheme will have to have final approval from both Norfolk county and Yarmouth borough councils.

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