New car parking charges are set to come in across Wirral, even though the decision drew a furious reaction from many drivers.
In August, a Wirral Council meeting voted in favour of bringing in new charges to off-street car parks which are currently free in places including Bromborough, Bebington, Hoylake and New Brighton.
Charges for on-street spots in parts of New Brighton, West Kirby, Leasowe and Hoylake are also set to come in after the decision.
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As well as this, a £1 per hour standard rate, with a £5 per day maximum charge, was brought in for car parks across the borough.
Throughout the process, Labour and Green Party councillors have been in favour of new charges, but the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives have been against them.
The move will bring in £1m of income for the council which those in favour argued was needed to address the council’s budget problems, and was a decision which helped to protect vital services.
On the other hand, those against said it threatened to ruin small businesses as Wirral was moving out of the pandemic.
While the standardised rate has already come in, the new charges are subject to a TRO (Traffic Regulation Order) process, in which residents have the chance to protest against them.
This means any changes will not come in until next year.
During the summer, councillors asked officers if residents' parking schemes could be set up to protect people from losing spaces outside their house or in their local area due to people parking in different places to avoid charges, known as ‘displaced parking’.
But Wirral Council will only consider this if problems arise once the changes are brought in and evidence proves that such schemes are necessary.
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Volunteers already get a limited number of permits in some of the council’s country parks.
Wirral’s politicians had several passionate debates about parking over the summer, this is what they had to say on how the new charges will be brought in.
Labour councillor Liz Grey said: “It’s important not to politicise this issue.
"The Conservatives seem to want to whip up a campaign about this but officers are being far more sensible in waiting to see if there are any problems before and then working out the best ways in which to deal with them.
“While there are genuine concerns and there might well be ongoing issues to mitigate against once charges are in place, it is impossible to predict the exact nature of any future parking problems.
The chair of the environment and transport committee added: “What we can say for sure is that the council will take all residents' concerns very seriously and will do their best to protect local people from displaced parking.
“However, it is not fair to expect officers to explain their solutions to problems which have not yet occurred and may not even arise.”
Tory group leader, Cllr Tom Anderson, said: “The introduction of these draconian car parking charges is a tax on our coastline and struggling high streets.
“Yet again, Labour and the Green Party haven’t thought through the ramifications of displaced parking in our coastal areas and hammering low paid workers employed in our high street shops is simply not fair or equitable."
The Greasby, Franky and Irby member added: “When I proposed introducing extended volunteer passes for those individuals who contribute so much to our borough, Labour and Green councillors voted against.
“A couple of measly parking passes for the wonderful volunteers who do so much to enhance our much loved country parks and beaches is, quite frankly, an insult.
Green Party councillor Pat Cleary said it was “entirely legitimate” for the council to look at residents’ parking schemes, but they could not come in before there was evidence on the ground in favour of them.
Cllr Cleary added: “Our view is that people who use publicly provided parking spaces should cover the cost of that.
“That’s all these charges do, they cover the cost to the council of providing these parking spaces. That is an important social justice principle.
“We are not allowed to profit from this, it’s important that non car owners don’t subsidise people who are fortunate enough to have private transport.”
Liberal Democrat councillor Allan Brame said: “Each proposed new location for parking is going to be the subject of critical debate. Each will have to be judged on its own merits. Some may be more acceptable than others.
“By the time suggestions come to committee, the budgetary position may be clearer. We’ll want to know whether this money really needs to be raised.
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“Alternative sources of income and savings may be identified that mean the council does not have to do this.”
Cllr Brame added: “Currently, the council is desperately searching for new ways of raising money but it must balance the potential harm to our local shopping centres. There is a very real risk of diverting trade to the free car parking at retail parks.
“At the previous meeting, I suggested we should consider a period of free parking before charges kick in and I think that needs to be looked at again so small shops are not hit by a loss of passing trade.”