Tories in Kirklees have ‘called in’ controversial plans to scrap free parking and raise parking charges.
Labour-run Kirklees Council wants to charge for all council parks and raise existing parking charges by the rate of inflation – back-dated to 2009.
The decision has provoked anger in small towns and villages – such as Lindley – where small businesses fear they will be impacted by the loss of free parking.
Cabinet approved the plans last month but now the Conservative group has challenged the decision saying the council report lacked detail and clarity and there was no financial information about how much charges would cost to implement or how much extra revenue would be raised.
Parking charges haven’t been reviewed since 2009 and critics say the council is acting now as it desperately seeks savings of £47 million before February to stave off effective bankruptcy.
The council says it wants to better manage its car parking and reduce demand for car parking by encouraging drivers to walk, cycle or use public transport instead.
The ‘call in’ means the issue will go before a meeting of the Environment and Climate Change Scrutiny Panel on Wednesday December 6 at Huddersfield Town Hall.
There councillors will ask questions of senior councillors and council officers and probe the decision-making process.
The panel could refer it back to Cabinet and recommend changes or send it to full council if the decision goes against the council’s budget or a previously agreed policy.
Clr Adam Gregg (Con, Lindley), who has been collecting signatures on a petition against the charges, said: “The report was light on financial information and we simply don’t know the rationale for making the decision.
“If this does bring in revenue for the council, then has the council carried out an assessment of what impact this will have on our town and village centres and how shops and businesses will be affected? At the moment we just don’t know.”
Car parking charges will be introduced in three of the biggest towns in Kirklees for the first time – Batley, Heckmondwike and Cleckheaton – and it was not clear whether more car park enforcement officers would be needed, along with equipment and vehicles.
Ticket machines and signage would also have to be installed and this would come at a cost.
“We don’t know what the logic is because there’s so little financial information,” added Clr Gregg.
Clr Gregg and Conservative campaigner Robert McGuin (main image, above) collected signatures in Lindley on Saturday and will be at Lindley Christmas Evening on Tuesday. Around 1,500 signatures have been collected Kirklees-wide.
Another of the signatories to the call-in, Clr Martyn Bolt (Con, Mirfield) said: “We need more clarity and financial information and we need to know what other options were considered and what thought processes were gone through.
“Charges have not increased since 2009 so what is the implication for the vibrancy of town and village centres of bringing in these back-dated charges?
“If we need more enforcement officers, vehicles and machines there will be a cost for that and we don’t know if any extra revenues will go into the general council pot or if the money will be ring-fenced for car parking. We just don’t have enough information.”
Clr Bolt was also concerned that the Cabinet wanted to delegate future annual reviews of parking charges to the council service director responsible.
“This is about democratic accountability,” he said. “If you are in power and need to make tough decisions you have to be accountable to the public.”
Parking charges in Huddersfield town centre will rise from 70p an hour to £1.10 per hour. The cost of parking all day in Huddersfield town centre will rise from £4 to £6.50.
In other towns and villages the cost will be 50p per hour and £6.50 all day. The charges could be introduced in January 2024.