THREAT TO FREE XMAS PARKING
Traders slam ‘ridiculous’ proposals to help bridge budget gap:
TRADERS have hit out at “ridiculous” proposals that could see free parking for Christmas shoppers become a thing of the past.
With the festive season now over, Gwynedd council is looking at whether or not to continue its tradition of not charging for parking spaces in the run up to next Christmas.
Last month the ticket machines were out of action between December 15-26 to encourage local shoppers to support the county’s high streets instead of travelling further afield.
But in a bid to help make up a £12.9m budget gap for 2019/20, scrapping the free parking scheme is one of the measures being proposed.
Council officers have calculated that the scheme leads to an average loss in parking income of £45,000 a year, but say they will consult with the public before a final decision is made on the 2019/20 budget.
But Endaf Cooke, a former county councillor who runs Caernarfon’s J & C Chip shop, described the proposals as “ridiculous.”
“Businesses on high streets across Wales are already struggling and there are 11 empty shops on Caernarfon’s Pool Street as it is.
“Both Gwynedd Council and the Welsh Government need to wake up and see what’s happening, Tesco and other out of town outlets are able to offer free parking.
“We’re having to compete against that and while the majority of their profits disappear back over Offa’s Dyke, the smaller outlets are the heart of the local economy. We need more help, not barriers thrown in our way.”
Meanwhile, Paula Leslie who runs y Bocs Teganau toy shop in Porthmadog, feels that the scheme should be extended further rather than be scrapped completely.
“In my view, getting rid of the free parking would be a disas- ter,” she added. “While we welcome anything that helps the high street, I’ve always felt it would be beneficial to run the scheme for a month as many p people start their Christmas sh shopping sooner rather than la later.
“It’s incredibly hard to run a business these days, we’re competing against out of town d developments which all offer fr free parking.
“You only need to look at how many shops have shut in Porthmadog over the past few years, all of them represent a lo loss in business rates so it’s a fa false economy not to offer more su support.”
Normal parking charges vary across the county, usually startin ing from £1 an hour.
Launching last year’s s scheme, environment cabinet member Cllr Dafydd Meurig said that business owners had made it clear that the free Christmas parking scheme was of “huge benefit” to them every year.
But officers have admitted that difficult decisions lie ahead, with the council leader having criticised the Welsh Government following another poor funding settlement for 2019/20.
Among the other ideas being considered are charging a fee for re-supplying bins that have been damaged, increasing council tax by 5.5%, hiking crematorium fees from £520 to £550 and issuing penalties on contractors who fail to comply with legislation when working on the county’s roads.
A Gwynedd Council spokesman said: “Due to the cut in funding Gwynedd receives from the government and the increasing cost of providing local services, the council will face a financial gap of approximately £13 million in 2019/20.
“As part of the efforts to bridge this gap, the Council will be implementing savings and reducing back-office costs. Despite this, the Council will still need to address a gap of £4.8 million and the authority will be considering how to implement further savings along with the possibility of raising Council Tax.
“Before councillors make a decision on the way forward at the full Council in March 2019, the authority will be carrying out a public consultation in January which will offer residents an opportunity to have their say on 65 detailed proposals to help bridge the funding gap.
“Details about the consultation will be published early in the new year.”
● Parking at Caernarfon Maes