The three-month parking payback scheme, which ended last month, offered visitors to Cannock and Rugeley town centres a £2 refund on their car park ticket if they spent at least £10 at a participating business. And businesses that signed up were given a £500 grant from the council to pay the parking refunds and meet other costs.
On Thursday Cannock Chase Council’s cabinet heard that take-up of the scheme was lower than expected, but it had been welcomed by traders as part of their recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
They called for it to continue in the run-up to Christmas and for the minimum spend to be reduced from £10 to £5 to encourage more customers to take part.
Cabinet members agreed at Thursday’s meeting to extend the parking payback to the end of the year. The minimum qualifying spend will be cut to £5 but the grant paid to businesses will also be reduced to £250.
Funding for the scheme has come from the Additional Restrictions Grant paid to the council by the Government to support businesses affected by coronavirus restrictions such as lockdowns during the past 18 months.
Deputy leader Councillor Bryan Jones said: “The businesses, as one would expect, have been very grateful for the £500. It hasn’t raised the revenue or footfall we would have liked but it has been a lifeline for those businesses.
“Christmas coming up is a really important factor for me. The money is there, let’s spend it.”
Council leader Olivia Lyons said: “I find it somewhat disappointing that take-up was lower than we anticipated, but having read through the feedback the quotes are very positive. There appears to be higher take-up where businesses have gone out to promote the scheme themselves.
“Listening to business feedback is most important and traders have indicated it is worth the extension, particularly in the run up to Christmas and having been through the pandemic.
Rugeley councillor Justin Johnson said he was disappointed to see take up in the town by traders was lower than in Cannock. He urged more Rugeley businesses to sign up to the scheme.
“From what we have heard it has worked well and it should work well for them”, he added. “There are warnings about Christmas goods being held up at ports down south, so when people are going online in November or December they are not going to be able to buy what they want.
“What are they going to do? Go into town. And if they know they’re going to get free parking as well this could really benefit our local traders.
“I think it is imperative we support the motion and if we can market it better as well that can only help.”
A cabinet report revealed 34 Cannock businesses and 15 Rugeley businesses had taken part in the pilot scheme.
It added: “As at the end of week 12 of the 13-week trial period collectively, there has been a total of 762 car parking £2 refunds been processed by the participating businesses. This equates to £1,524 of refunds being given to patrons of the businesses; Cannock: 650 refunds equating to £1,300.00. Rugeley: 112 refunds equating to £224.00.
“The data shows that many of the refunds have been made by a small number of businesses in each of the town centres. Furthermore, analysis shows there has been no significant effect in the levels of ticket reimbursements made on market days.
As part of the Terms and Conditions, businesses were expected to capture the value of each transaction that related to the voucher refund. Transactions had to be to the value of £10 or more. Collectively (there were) a total of £36,951.28 worth of sales from the 49 businesses; Cannock: £28,132.46 sales, Rugeley: £8,818.82 sales.
“It is difficult to say if the transactions above are solely due to the car park refund initiative, or whether these sales figures would have occurred even if the pilot scheme was not operating. Furthermore, if comparing solely the total number of transactions versus the total amount of grants awarded, the scheme has been successful in generating additional business.”