Get involved: Send your news, views, pictures and video by texting SUPIC to 80360 or email us.
How successful have Brighton and Hove City Council's new parking charges been?
Wholesale changes to parking charges across Brighton and Hove have sparked much controversy. But, three months on, have council bosses achieved what they set out to do? TIM RIDGWAY reports.
To reduce congestion and push people towards more sustainable ways of getting around – these were two of the reasons Brighton and Hove City Council gave when it approved a raft of changes to its parking charges from April 1.
But there were other methods behind, what some call, the madness.
The local authority also claimed the changes, which saw some tariffs more than double, would raise an extra £1.3 million a year.
But details obtained by The Argus under the Freedom of Information Act show that financially the council is not doing as well as it would like.
Compared to the first two months last year, the council has recouped an extra £70,000.
If this is reflected throughout the next year it would leave it about £900,000 short of its target.
Income from the council’s on-street parking bays has actually dropped.
Critics say it is proof the charges are "counterproductive" with visitors and shoppers going elsewhere.
They add while the council may be getting more money, this is cash which is being taken away from local businesses.
Others, who have backed The Argus’ Park The Charges campaign to review the strategy, maintain it is hitting people too hard in the pocket during difficult financial times.
But a council spokeswoman said: “The parking figures for April and May cannot possibly give an accurate picture of year round parking in the city, particularly as we have just endured one of the wettest months on record, when numbers of visitors to the city fell dramatically.
“In fact, in a recent issue of The Argus a spokesperson for Brighton’s Palace Pier was quoted as saying ‘it feels like we’ve had 40 days of rain which has badly damaged the business’.
“Since the beginning of April the weather has been atrocious and the whole town’s been quiet.
“It is important to remember that the decision to raise parking charges was made to improve traffic flow, reduce congestion and cut down on pollution.”
The raft of changes saw the majority of prices, particularly those in the centre of the city, increase by double-digit percentages.
At the time the council said it was trying to simplify the tariffs.
Minimum parking periods increased from 15 and 30 minutes to one hour.
This is £1 in some areas but in central Brighton it is £3.50 – an increase from £1.70.
The local authority claims it is trying to push people towards using off-street car parks instead.
However, business and tourism leaders dispute whether this has happened.
Claire Ottewell, chairman of Brighton and Hove Tourism Alliance, said: “I can understand the council’s need to recover revenues in order to fund key public services.
“However the potential ‘win’ of the £1.3 million from the increase in parking charges is costing the local tourism economy that amount and more in lost customers and thus threatening their ability to survive.
“The irony for us is that Brighton was already an expensive city to park in – the Tourism Alliance was already campaigning to make it more affordable before these increased charges were introduced.
“We do support the channelling of customers to the city’s car parks, which are getting better all the time.
“However street parking in destinations without car parks like Seven Dials and Kemp Town, is the very life blood of the area and needs urgent review.
“£3.50 per hour is unaffordable by anyone’s standard.”
Opposition councillors have opposed the hikes in prices.
Conservative councillor Geoffrey Theobald said: “I have been saying from the word go this would be counterproductive and not bring in anything like the £1.3 million extra income they budgeted for and here is the evidence.
“It seems to me to be obvious that if you put up the charges too much, people will simply vote with their wallets and go elsewhere and it is local businesses that will suffer.
“It is not too late for them to change their minds and do another u-turn but, as it stands, the Greens’ parking policy is in complete disarray.”
Labour councillor Warren Morgan said: “The Greens will claim this drop in parking revenue is entirely due to the weather, however business owners at last week’s state of the city event clearly don’t accept that.
“The parking fee increases were designed by the Greens to keep cars out of the city: customers have stayed away and businesses and jobs are suffering as a result.”
For more reaction from the business community and full breakdown of the charges see today's Argus.