Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Council savings: Knowle parking charges considered

LONG-STAY parking charges are being considered for Knowle and pay and display machines will return to Solihull under council cost cutting plans.

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Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council is looking to introduce charges for long stays in the village and around Solihull’s Council House and Malvern and Brueton parks.

Officers suggested in December that shoppers would get a free ticket for the 12 months from April and then pay 20p an hour after the first 30 minutes in the 12 months after that.

This would rise to 40p an hour in the 12 months from April 2014.

Yet Conservative council leader Ken Meeson said this has not been accepted but the council is looking at long stay charges, possibly after two or three hours.

He told The Silhillian free council car parks in Shirley were “clogged up” with commuters and the authority would look at including Knowle to be “consistent”.

Mr Meeson said: “We have agreed the principle of charging long-stay to free up parking spaces for shoppers.

“We don’t know if that is a problem in Knowle as it is in Shirley. It is being considered for Knowle, we need to get some consistency.”

Charges would be introduced for all stays around Council House but not at weekends, he said.

Any new charges would be introduced from April 2013 he said. Dorridge would not be affected as the current Forest Court car park will be part of a new Sainsbury's development, approved by planners in November.

The move will also bring in £146,500 for the cash strapped council, which needs to cut £12m to balance its £145m budget for the next financial year.

The council will also replace pay on foot machines – where drivers take a ticket on entering multi-storeys and pay before leaving – with pay and display machines in the town, where drivers have to pay up front. These could be topped up by mobile phone.

This applies from today at Mell Square and will be rolled out to the Marks & Spencer and Lode Lane car parks.

Solihull Ratepayers Association said the move would see a “substantial increase” in parking tickets as drivers over-stay their allotted time and deter shoppers.

Rolling out pay and display will bring the council £139,000 in the next two years, council documents show.

The authority argues they are cheaper to maintain and do not take bank notes, reducing the risk of theft and vandalism.

The council also wants to introduce income from parking to pay on the street following a trial in Monkspath and step up enforcement to get more fines cash. This would bring in £42,800 in the next three years.

As previously reported by The Silhillian, street lights could be dimmed or switched off to save £224,000 by 2014.

Electronic signs which give drivers information about the number of spaces in town car parks will be only be used from 7am to 9am and from 6pm to 10pm in the week to save cash.

They would be on throughout the day in the school summer holidays and Christmas period.

Mr Meeson said cuts and savings are vital

He said: “We are the worst funded local metropolitan local authority in the country, we get about half the average Government grant.”

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