To receive any questions relating to items on the Agenda from members of the public and replies thereto.
Mrs Kate Clayton-White
After attending Full Council meetings and Economy PDG meetings earlier this year we managed to persuade you to reconsider your outrageous proposed increases for our allocated parking spaces. We were delighted to hear you set up a working group involving town traders and other interested parties who have already produced a report update for this meeting which recommends that the Council supports traders by offering some free parking before Xmas however allocated spaces charges aren’t actually mentioned at all.
One of our main concerns had been the fact that previously, the decision making process including discussion of fees which resulted in a 115% increase for our allocated space, was concealed in part 2 minutes, i.e. in secret. On 22nd February this year at the full Council meeting I asked what was so commercially sensitive about raising car parking charges that the decision making process had to take place in secret. The answer I received was ‘The majority of the council’s fees and charges were considered together by Cabinet and therefore the decision was taken to consider all fees in part 2 session. Future review of car parking fees will take place in normal part 1 session’.
Note, my question – why was it necessary to discuss these matters in secret – wasn’t actually answered – nor was it when I asked again on 4th April.
The agenda for today’s meeting suggests that discussion of fees and charges for 2024/25 will take part in part 2 session. If this includes the proposed car parking increase then this would directly contradict what was promised, in writing, in your answer to my question in February and make a mockery of this new administration’s vow to be more transparent than the last.
So my questions are:
1. Are car parking fee increases going to be discussed, as originally promised, in normal part 1 sessions? If not, why not?
2. Why were such discussions previously deemed to be commercially sensitive and hidden in part 2?
3. Where in the Parking Consultation Terms of Reference and pressing matters (Car Park Working Group update report 3.3) will the needs of allocated space fee payers be considered?
The Corporate Manager for People, Governance and Waste stated that the Terms of Reference for the Working Group could be added to at any time as they were still being developed. They were not set in stone. The Group were very keen to talk to business leaders and community groups to further inform their discussions and this would be taking place. The Chairman further informed those present that no recommendations were being made this evening based on the work of the Working Group, the report included with the agenda was just providing an update. The main focus of the proposals regarding fees and charges for this evenings meeting were based on inflation based rises.
It was recognised that the car parking issues had not been handled in a way which current Members were happy with last year and that things would be managed very differently going forwards. He reiterated the fact that inflationary increases had now been delegated to the S151 Officer and all other matters would be discussed openly.
The Chairman of the Working Group stated that they had only met once and had not yet prioritised the Terms of Reference. The main objective was to ensure that, having consulted with the community, there were practical recommendations regarding fees going forwards.
(Answers were provided by the Cabinet Member for Finance in each case)
This item is being discussed in secret, but the report has been published and Paragraph 2.2 says it is proposed to increase Fees and Charges by the September Consumer Price Index inflation rate of 6.7%.
Everybody knows that inflation is coming down. It was on the news headlines yesterday that the rate had dropped to 4.6% and for this Council to set an increase at 6.7% is excessive by any reasonable measure.
Fees and Charges should only go up by any increase in the cost of the service and only last month the Council was being told that costs are being cut.
In the secret papers, have the Officers provided costs of the services that charge these Fees and Charges to prove that an increase of 6.7% is necessary for each item?
The appendices only include the recommended fees and charges and the additional income generated.
I would highlight again that as part of the fee setting during the last review of fees and charges, delegated authority was given to the Deputy Chief Executive to increase fees and charges by at least inflation.
In regards to the inflation point being used, it is important to recognise that it has been higher than this earlier in the year. The September figure represents the mid-point for the year and is also the latest CPI available at the time of drafting the proposal, and is the Central Governments measure used when calculating national schemes such as pensions and business rates.
Expert institutional financial forecasting and including the UK Governments own anticipates that CPI inflation will drop to around 3% by the middle of next year and down to the Government’s 2% target by the middle of 2025. Therefore, further the challenging the justification for the excessive 6.7% price rise that this Committee is asked to approve.
Will this Committee fully factor this into its decision making and during the secret debate ?
I’ve addressed the question around the inflation rate as part of my previous answer,
You are asking the PDG to consider your comments in their deliberations, I can’t speak on their behalf, but I am sure they will do.
In the secret papers, have the Officers provided costs of implementing this increase across all the Fees and Charges ?
The appendices only include the recommended fees and charges and the additional income generated. The cost of implementing any change to the fees and charges are relatively minimal, largely the cost of advertising and printing new tariffs.
When this Committee votes on the recommendation to take back to Cabinet will this vote be conducted in public?
Yes, there will be a vote in public session,
What Fees / Charges are being considered?
Car Parking and the Panier Market.