Kirklees parking charges hike will go ahead as call-in sees no further action

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Kirklees Council is free to go ahead with a borough-wide parking fee hike for a £2.6m cash boost after a “call-in” resulted in no further action being taken.

Members of Kirklees’ Conservative group had successfully called in the Labour cabinet’s decision to raise parking fees and scrap free parking at car parks across the borough. This meant that the decision was sent for further examination at yesterday’s (December 6) meeting of the environment and climate change scrutiny panel.

The Tories had criticised a “lack of transparency” in the decision-making process and highlighted an absence of detail relating to the financial implications of the decision, potential impacts on businesses and residents and why the plans had come about.

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Two of the call-in request’s signatories – Coun Mark Thompson (Con, Birstall and Birkenshaw), and Coun Adam Gregg (Con, Lindley) – attended the meeting and spoke of the reasons behind it.

Car parking charges are set to rise across Kirklees in the new yearCar parking charges are set to rise across Kirklees in the new year
Car parking charges are set to rise across Kirklees in the new year

Coun Thompson set out the concerns around the clarity of the report and the lack of other options that were featured.

He wanted to know whether the positives would outweigh the negatives and if the potential impacts had been considered, not only on individual towns and villages and their residents and businesses, but also on the borough as a whole.

Reading from a document commissioned by the RAC giving guidance on high street parking, he said: “Car parking charges cannot be viewed one-dimensionally as a single revenue source for local authorities.

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"If such charges damage the viability of the town centre, it will have a knock-on effect on the resources available to the authority.”

Coun Gregg, who had previously launched a petition opposing the charges, raised a number of questions from residents during the meeting.

He said: “Residents deserve to know and they deserve transparency with regards to what this decision is being made for – is it being made for generating extra revenue or is it being made for modal shift as has been alluded to? I think there needs to be clarity with regards to that.

“In terms of the revenue that is going to be generated, how is that revenue going to be utilised?

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"These are questions that residents are asking me, I don’t have the answers.

"Obviously, we would love them in the report and a bit more meat on the bone with that.”

Coun Yusra Hussain, cabinet member for culture and Greener Kirklees, responded to the points raised and said that while she appreciated that the decision is unpopular, the council can’t hold down its fees any longer.

She told the meeting that the level of free car parking in Kirklees is “unprecedented” compared to other local authorities and that an estimated £2.6m will be brought in by the fee hike.

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She continued: “An immediate revision of the council’s car parking fees and tariffs is required in light of the council’s financial position, so the acceleration of amended charges is required to support the medium-term financial strategy.”

Coun Hussain also told the meeting that £900,000 was already being invested to replace around 140 of the borough’s parking meters in need of an update as part of the council’s usual businesses and that this could coincide with installing new meters where they were needed under the plans.

However, the number of car parks where fees will come in is yet to be confirmed, with this to consider the results of the current 21-day consultation.

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The impact of increasing parking charges will be monitored after its implementation and reviewed after around 12 months.

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The panel was told that it is difficult to provide conclusive results on the impact the charges will have on people’s behaviour before the plans have been put in place.

When it came to the next steps, three options were available to the panel – to take no further action, to send the report back to cabinet for amendments to be made, or to send it to full council if the decision goes against the council’s budget or any previously agreed council policy.

After a private discussion between panel members, chair of the meeting, Coun Jo Lawson (Labour, Crosland Moor and Netherton), said: “We resolved that the decision taken in relation to car parking charges be freed for implementation. We also have added three learning points that we feel should be taken on board.

"In respect of the decision, the panel wishes to make the following comments as learning points:

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“That within all future cabinet reports, the reason for the decision, the financial implications and options considered should be included.

“The panel were satisfied with the level of financial detail provided at today’s meeting and request that this be included in the future reports of the meeting of the cabinet committee for local issues.

“The panel acknowledge the value and importance of the pre-decision scrutiny process which may have mitigated the need for a call-in. While acknowledging the urgency of the decision, every effort should be made in future to factor in pre-decision scrutiny.”

The changes will be introduced in January and will see the hourly cost of parking in Huddersfield town centre rise from 70p to £1.10.

Outside of Huddersfield, charges would be put up from 5p per hour to 50p.

Across the whole borough, all-day parking would increase by more than 60 per cent from £4 to £6.50.