Council challenged on residents parking charges

No concessions for elderly or less well-off. Free permits scrapped. Second car permits could cost £100

Eastleigh Borough Council have been challenged to make concessions for less well-off car owners as they negotiate a new residents parking scheme that will see free permits scrapped for established residents and charges for first and second cars rising.

The proposals run contrary to a pledge made by the current administration never to introduce charges for residents who had moved into property prior to 16 October 2011.

Car owners in the Town Centre resident parking zones will see an increase from the current £30 for the first car to £50 by 2022 but It has not yet been decided how much permits for a second car will cost. At the moment a permit for a second car costs £60 but Eastleigh News understands they could rise to as much as £100 which means a two car household could have to fork out £150 a year for parking permits in future.

Eastleigh Borough Council are currently negotiating the charges as part of new deal with Hampshire County Council who are prepared to delegate on-street parking arrangements to district councils – but at a cost.

If Eastleigh doesn’t strike a new deal, then control of Eastleigh’s parking would revert to the County Council who already charge all their residents £50 a year for a first permit.

Some district councils within the Hampshire county council administrative area offer permit concessions to certain groups of residents . Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council provide over 75s with free residents permits while Fareham Borough Council provide a free residents permit to Blue Badge holders.

At last week’s meeting of Eastleigh Local Area Committee, Labour activist Josh Constable used the public participation session to challenge the council to provide concessions for poorer residents.

Afterwards Mr Constable told Eastleigh News that councillors had refused to commit to a response and commented:

The Lib-Dems are always eager to state how well their finances are doing; yet when it comes to sharing these supposedly impressive gains, they suddenly can’t consider it, even for those struggling to get by.

Responding to Mr Constable’s concerns, the Deputy Leader of Eastleigh Borough Council, Councillor Paul Bicknell blamed Hampshire County Council for the rise in parking charges which he described as a ‘stealth tax.’ Cllr Bicknell explained all local district councils in Hampshire are affected, not just Eastleigh, and that subsidising permit parking for less well-off residents would mean an increase in Council Tax which would effect everyone, including those ‘struggling to get by.’ The Deputy Leader said he hoped the County Council would agree to spread the introduction of the increases over three years and praised Eastleigh council’s record on Council Tax and its property investment strategy:

“EBC is negotiating with HCC to phase in these charges over a number of years, at no cost to EBC, to lessen the impact on Eastleigh residents.

In sharp contrast to HCC, EBC’s policy of no increase or a 1% below inflation council tax increase for the last 16 years and a pledge to do the same for the next 4 years keeps cash in peoples pockets.

This is acheived by EBC’s strong finacial management and income from our property portfolio which allows EBC to “share those impressive gains” with all residents in the borough; without reducing services.”

The Leader of the Opposition on Eastleigh Borough Council, Independent Councillor Lou Parker-Jones told Eastleigh News:

 “I’m concerned that these charges are likely to affect areas of our Borough which are less affluent and least able to absorb the costs.

“I’m also concerned that more garden space, a haven for our urban wildlife – birds, hedgehogs etc. will be concreted over as people seek to park off road.

“I have pushed for Eastleigh to involve residents who will be affected by any changes to the parking policy.”

Eastleigh Labour has previously clashed with the Liberal Democrat administration over parking permits. In 2010 local party members alleged the council was planning to introduce parking permits -a charge dismissed by Council Leader Keith House as “total nonsense made by Labour” .

At the time Lib Dem Cllr Wayne Irish told Eastleigh News:

“There will be NO charges for the first permit. Not now. Not in the future. No chance. In many Labour-run Councils, residents face a hefty bill for parking any cars.”