Council budget in ‘disarray’ as Lib Dems U-turn on parking charge plans

Bath and North East Somerset Council’s budget plans have been left in disarray following a major U-turn by the Liberal Democrat-run authority on plans to introduce new parking charges throughout the area.

As part of its budget proposals for next year, B&NES Council recently announced that it is ‘proposing to introduce car parking charges in all off-street car parks that are currently free’.

However, following outcry from local traders, residents and opposition Conservative councillors, the authority’s Liberal Democrat Cabinet has bowed to public pressure and said it will scrap the plans at most of the Council’s car parks.

The Council has stated that no charges will be introduced in Batheaston, Chew Magna, Midsomer Norton, Paulton, Peasedown St. John, Radstock, Saltford, Timsbury, or Wellow, but has not yet ruled out charges at Larkhall car park in Bath.

With the Council budgeting for an additional £300,000 of income from new parking charges next year, the confusion surrounding the proposals has led to accusations by Conservative councillors that the Council’s budget-setting process is in disarray.

Conservative Shadow Cabinet Member for Resources, Cllr Charles Gerrish, commented:

“This has to be one of the fastest U-turns in the Council’s history so far, but the fact the Lib Dems have bowed to public pressure will come as great relief to local residents and traders.

“However, this has left the Council’s budget plans in disarray and will result in a financial black hole to fill.  The Council had budgeted for an additional £300,000 of income next year from new parking charges.  We need to know how this £300,000 was calculated and where the Council will find the money instead.

“The confusion surrounding these parking charges has caused huge and unnecessary angst for local businesses, and this budget shambles could not have come at a worse time.  The Council is making deep cuts to services and trying to find major financial savings, so residents need to have greater confidence that the Council has a grip on its budget.”