An increase in fees at Leeds’s council-managed car parks is expected to be signed off next month, leading to fears of a “tipping point” effect on shoppers and motorists.
The council is raising weekend and evening parking charges, which were introduced three years ago, by £1.
Bank holiday parking charges are also set to be imposed for the first time, except on Christmas Day. WHAT DO YOU THINK? CLICK HERE TO JOIN THE DEBATE ON THE YEP FACEBOOK PAGE
Cash-strapped council bosses - who face a £25m Government funding shortfall this year - admit that “the choices are getting harder and harder” every year when it comes to squeezing out additional income for public services.
However they also insist the charges are still fair - and a whole lot better than the private sector rates which apply in 70 per cent of the city’s car parking spaces.
The changes are expected to bring in £700,000 of extra revenue for the public purse.
Councillor Richard Lewis, Leeds City Council’s executive member for transport and planning issues, said any price increases were “in the context of yet another budget round, after a number of budget rounds” adding that “every year, the choices get harder and harder”.
At a recent cross-party scrutiny panel meeting, he was questioned on the “tipping point” of when putting the charges up will start influencing the number of visitors to the city centre.
Coun Lewis admitted: “We are kind of scraping the barrel in terms of acceptability. That’s just the nature of the beast.
“And while we would rather not put up charges, it’s always a fine calculation to ensure that our car parking is used to the maximum and we don’t tip over to the point where we are putting people off.”
He said there was obvious concern about impact of parking charges on footfall to the city centre, but stressed he was “less concerned” than a few years ago as the economy had taken an upturn and the city centre offer had improved massively.
Councillor Lewis stressed the local authority is not a “monopoly provider” of parking, and actually only manages 30 per cent of the city’s parking spaces.
“We are always comparing with the private sector, and 99 per cent of the time we are cheaper than the private sector,” he said.
“We always try to be under, and we are always looking at where new provision is coming in to ensure we have the commercial edge.”
Other new charges being brought in next year to raise revenue for the council include extra mobile CCTV monitoring outside schools and in bus lanes, as well as an increase in the cost of business and trade permits.
Leeds City Council’s 2017/18 budget will be rubber-stamped by councillors next month.