West Norfolk council budget plans approved, but consultation on parking charges still open
People in West Norfolk can still have their say on plans to increase parking charges in the borough, despite them being approved by councillors.
Members voted 44 to seven to approve the measure, contained within the authority’s budget, at a meeting on Thursday evening.
But residents still have until March 12 to respond to a public consultation on the issue.
Under the council’s proposals, long stay parking charges will increase by 30p to £2.70 at Boal Quay in Lynn and £2.80 for drivers arriving before 10am at sites such as Common Staithe Quay, from April 1.
Short stay charges will also rise while the overnight rate is due to double from £1 to £2, though it will be available from 5pm, rather than 6pm.
Council leader Brian Long said he appreciated some would be unhappy with the rise, but revealed the authority had been forced to pay more than £100,000 more than expected in business rates for the car parks.
He argued that the council should seek to recoup that money from drivers who use the sites, rather than people who don’t.
But independent Terry Parish questioned how the authority could make a decision on the issue, given that a public consultation was ongoing.
He also attacked plans to raise the cost of residential parking passes by 60 per cent, saying: “I don’t find a 60 per cent increase for anything acceptable.”
But Mr Long said: “The charges don’t go up tonight. They don’t go up the day the consultation finishes. There is time to have input on that.”
The budget plan also includes a £4.50 annual increase in council tax for a typical band D property, raising the borough’s portion of the charge to £121.37 next year.
Although many borough residents will face an overall hike in bills of around £100 in April, most of the extra money will go to Norfolk County Council, rather than the borough.
Mr Long said the borough’s rise was the smallest in Norfolk and urged councillors to support what he described as a “prudent” set of proposals, which continued the process the authority had committed to by accepting a four-year financial settlement from central government.
He acknowledged the council was likely to be under even tougher financial constraints than ever before in the coming years, but insisted the authority was better placed than many to withstand them.
The main opposition Labour group did not present any alternative proposals.
But its leader, John Collop, warned the people of the borough were being left to suffer the consequences of the financial squeeze and claimed the only way out was a change of national government.
He said: “I dont know how the government expects us, as a council, to carry on.
“I know the leader will say we’re making efficiencies and savings.
“They come at a cost to our services, to the people living in West Norfolk.”
Andy Tyler said officers had told them the authority would suffer from the decision not to raise tax earlier.
He asked: “Oh dear. Is that time almost here?”
But, in a rare intervention from the backbenches, former council leader Nick Daubney said it was “incredible” Labour had not presented any alternative proposals to the meeting.
He said: “Ever since Labour practically bankrupted this country, this council has held its finances together.
“I want to congratulate the cabinet for putting forward a sensible budget that keeps this council alive.”
However, independent Charles Joyce said some of the measures proposed “defy reason and logic.”
He questioned the absence of long-term loans worth millions of pounds from the plans, for which the meeting was told reports would be published next month.
He added: “It’s long overdue this council accepts the system is not working, stop gambling hard-earned money on vanity projects, or at the very least cut your losses, and get on with delivering public services.”
Comments on the car parking charges can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or posted to nplaw, Norfolk County Council, County Hall, Norwich NR1 2DH. Correspondence should be marked for the attention of Mrs Simmons.