Town council’s offer to pay £30,000 for free parking rejected

A request for a year’s free car parking in Rugeley has been turned down by Cannock Chase Council – but cabinet members have said they are willing to consider an alternative scheme to support town businesses.

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

Hednesford Town Council already has an arrangement to fund free car parking for visitors and a request was made for a similar scheme in Rugeley last year.

But Cannock Chase Council said it could not agree to the offer for Rugeley at the time.

Rugeley Town Council has now offered up to £30,000 to the district authority in exchange for providing free parking for visitors for a year.

The district council runs car parks in Forge Road, Market Hall, Market Street, St Paul’s Road and Taylor’s Lane.

In a second letter to Cannock Chase Council submitted earlier this month, Rugeley’s town clerk, Hilary Goodreid, said: “Councillors are just looking for Rugeley to be treated the same as Hednesford.

“It was never suggested that this arrangement would be the panacea to revitalise the town centre following the pandemic – more a case that it would help to bring shoppers back into the town centre and support local shops.

“It is acknowledged that during all the periods of lockdown in the past 12 months parking income will have been severely restricted. Would CCDC be interested in a one-off donation from Rugeley Town Council of around £25-£30,000 which will ensure that car parks are offered free to local shoppers and businesses for a 12-month period?

“This will entice shoppers back and bring in an assured income to CCDC who will otherwise be struggling to receive income from parking fees for the foreseeable future.”

But Josh Newbury, Cannock Chase Council’s portfolio leader for environment and climate change, said that if the authority took up the £30,000 offer to provide free parking in Rugeley it would be unable to claim back up to 75 per cent of car park takings lost during the pandemic as part of a Government funding offer to local authorities.

Budget

A cabinet report said that the proposal for 12 months’ free car parking in Rugeley would lead to a loss of £67,000 income to the district council based on the budget provision for 2021/22.

Councillor Newbury said: “That £67,000 is more than double what we are being offered for a 12 month period of car parking

“The pandemic has clearly had a considerable impact on our town centres and High Streets. We don’t know what the long term effects will be and there is still considerable uncertainty about how the economy will bounce back.

“The corporate plan does include an objective to review car parking as part of our general work. We know that things are not going to go back to how they were 12 months ago.

”We already have a forecast deficit of £300,000 this year. I don’t think we can accept this request at the moment due to the financial pressures we are under at this council.”

Councillor Newbury did put forward an alternative proposal however, to consider the possibility of offering a parking refund for Rugeley visitors if they used town businesses.

“There will be more to this to work out and businesses would need to be on board,” he said. “But I feel that could deliver some of the benefits Rugeley Town Council are looking for regarding the town centre.

“That would hopefully avoid people using the car parks but not benefitting the town shops and people who don’t have cars having to pay for blanket car parking as part of their council tax.”

Fellow cabinet members backed the consideration of this proposal as part of the parking review in the corporate plan.

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