Take-up of car parking discount scheme lower than expected

Councillors are considering whether to continue with a parking discount scheme in Cannock Chase in the run up to Christmas after take-up was lower than expected.

The Market Street car park in Rugeley. Photo: Google Maps
The Market Street car park in Rugeley. Photo: Google Maps

The three-month car parking payback pilot was launched by Cannock Chase Council in June to help town centre businesses recover from the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown closures.

It has been funded through the council’s Additional Restrictions Grant and Welcome Back Fund allocations from the Government and offers customers who use council car parks the chance to get a discount on their ticket if they spend money at a participating business in Cannock or Rugeley town centres

Each business taking part has been given a £500 grant from the council so they can pay the £2 parking refund to customers who spend at least £10 on goods or services.

This month the council’s economic recovery scrutiny committee was given an update on the scheme’s progress

A report to the committee said: “There has been extensive marketing campaigns advertising the pilot, however, the overall take-up rate has been lower than anticipated. Feedback from businesses has identified that this has been partly due to the monitoring requirements as part of the terms and conditions and auditing requirements.

“None of the businesses have refunded car parking vouchers to the value of the grant. Refunds range from £0 to £130, giving an average refund made of £27 across all the businesses.

“Rugeley voucher reimbursement rates may have been affected by the number of existing free short stay parking facilities at the local supermarkets that are all within walking distance of the town centre. This has meant that there has been little advantage in seeking a car park refund.

“Businesses have requested if the qualifying spend level of £10 or more could be lowered to capture more customers, this could potentially increase the take up rate. If the pilot was to be extended into the Christmas period this would be welcomed by the traders as this is considered the peak trading period for town centre businesses.

“The overwhelming response is that the initiative has been well received and, in some instances, has been a lifeline to help keep their business operating.”

The scheme was not run in Hednesford because there is already free car parking in the town.

The report added: “A total of 49 businesses participated across the two town centres: 34 in Cannock and 15 in Rugeley. Grants awarded total £24,500: £17,000 in Cannock and £7,500 in Rugeley.

“As at the end of week 10 of the 13-week trial period collectively, there has been a total of 654 car parking £2 refunds been processed by the participating businesses. This equates to £1,308.00 of refunds being given to patrons of the businesses; Cannock: 565 refunds equating to £1,130 (and) Rugeley: 89 refunds equating to £178.”

Committee members decided to delay making a decision on whether or not to continue the scheme until further data had been obtained.

Councillor Paul Startin said: “I would like to commend this council for having a go at this scheme. It’s good to see a proactive scheme being implemented to try and help our town centres, rather than some of the more oppressive schemes we’ve had in the past

“It’s good to see the council supporting businesses and that the £500 (grants) have kept the lights on.

“Seeing how certain shops have performed is really important to our decision making process. I propose something goes to cabinet that the scheme rolls on a little bit longer, say another month, which allows time to look at the data, and we have another meeting in a few weeks and we make a decision with more data presented to us.

“We can see this would be good for people moving forward to Christmas and if there are other ideas we could use the money for. We need to be supporting traders in the run up to Christmas and this may or may not be the way to do it.”

Councillor John Kraujalis said: “Personally I think it is a very good idea. Perhaps we should extend it to Christmas when we would expect to have a higher footfall.”

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