County council may target tourists for on-street parking charges in cash crisis
On-street parking charges could be introduced at tourism hotspots to help address County Hall’s budget black hole and solve “chronic” traffic problems.
The announcement was made as part of a series of measures agreed by Norfolk County Council’s cabinet in a bid to generate £15 million of cuts, savings and new income.
Other measures include a one-off raid of adult social care reserves, slashing the mobile library services budget by half and closing recycling centres on Wednesdays.
But critics have said the council is not even halfway to bridging its budget gaps and more cash is unlikely to come from central government.
The proposals are the first £13m of saving of an initial £15m target. In total, the authority needs to find £60 million of savings in 2023/24, as part of efforts to plug a £116m gap by 2027.
The council’s plans include a roll-out of on-street parking charges, which could generate £1m for the authority by 2024-25.
Announcing the measures on Monday, Andrew Jamieson, cabinet member for finance, said a parking charge for non-residents would help solve “chronic traffic problems” in villages with high levels of tourism.
A spokesperson was unable to say what areas could see new fees introduced.
Norfolk County Council is jointly responsible for parking through a partnership with district councils and implements new permit schemes.
Mr Jamieson said costs, particularly in adults and children’s services, “remain stubbornly difficult to rein in” and called on central government to find more funding for local authorities.
Speaking to the cabinet, Andrew Proctor, the leader of the council, echoed Mr Jamieson’s comments.
He said: “I would hope the treasury would recognise how badly local government, across the whole sector, is underfunded in the context of what it is asked to do.”
Mr Proctor said there had been a shift of giving more responsibility to local government but no extra money, which he described as “totally and utterly unreasonable”.
He also rejected the idea that councils should be allowed to put up council tax beyond the current 2.99pc limit.
Steve Morphew, the leader of the Labour group, said: “County Hall Conservatives are not even halfway to bridging their budget gap.
“They are loading extra-long term interest payments that risk ruining social care services. With no help from their government, there is a desperate grasping at the straw of devolution.
“[Government ministers] have made it clear that is more about process than hard cash. Even if it becomes a reality by then Norfolk services relied on by many will be damaged beyond repair.”
While the changes have been agreed by the cabinet, the final decision will rest with the full council when the recommendation come forward as part of next year’s budget in January 2023.