Traders slam ‘ridicu­lous’ pro­pos­als to help bridge bud­get gap:

Caernarfon Herald - - FRONT PAGE - Gareth Wyn Wil­liams

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

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