'We couldn't withdraw it': Permanent two hours of free parking continues in Wakefield

Two hours’ free parking is set to continue in Wakefield, the leader of the district council has confirmed.

By David Spereall
Wednesday, 26th January 2022, 11:47 am

Denise Jeffery said the measure, introduced last year to help entice people back into the city and town centres, had been well received.

Drivers can park in any publicly-run off-road car park in the district free of charge for two hours, provided they still get a ticket from the machine and display it on their windscreen.

Having rolled out the perk for an initial 12 months from last April, Coun Jeffery confirmed it is now set to carry on, pending formal approval from senior members of the council.

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Leader of Wakefield District Council confirmed free parking measures will stay. They had been introduced last year to help entice people back into the city and town centres, had been well received.

She said: “We knew that once we did free parking we couldn’t withdraw it. And it has gone down well, I think businesses have appreciated it. People can come into town, get their hair done and do their shopping. It’s made a real difference.”

As part of its budget proposals, the council has said it will also expand its park ranger programme, which was started last year to help nurture local parks, while the prospect of having urban green spaces in town centres will be further explored.

Council Tax

Coun Jeffery again defended the proposed council tax rise that is likely to kick in for Wakefield households in April and said the authority was “delivering” on people’s priorities.

The increase will help plug a £32m hole in the council’s finances, with money from reserves and £5m worth of cutbacks also making up the difference.

No council jobs will be lost as a result of the cutbacks.

Coun Jeffery, who became leader at the end of 2019, said: “Local government isn’t funded well. Every time some new legislation comes in, the government says councils will take care of it, but they don’t give us the resources to actually do it. We’re so stretched as it is. It’s so difficult to get that message out to people.

Residents just want a good lifestyle. They want a nice house to live in, they want the streets to be clean. They want their bins emptying. They want parks to be able to go to, they want free parking.

“We are delivering all this along with the green agenda and if we can carry on delivering that, besides building houses, we really will have achieved what we set out to do two-and-a-half years ago.”

Social Care

Besides the council tax rise, residents will also have to pay a two per cent adult social care precept on top of their bills. The government is bringing a National Insurance rise in a move it says will help fund the costs of caring for the elderly and vulnerable.

But local authorities in West Yorkshire and beyond say the measures don’t go far enough.

Coun Jeffery’s deputy, Jack Hemingway said: “What’s disappointing is to see the government telegraph the National Insurance rise as the answer to the social care crisis, when so little of that funding is being passed through to authorities to deal with social care.

“We’re still in an unfortunate position of having to raise the money ourselves so that the elderly can be looked after. It’s disappointing the government’s solution hasn’t actually translated into resources on the ground.”

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