Parking charges hiked by council for first time in five years

On-street and council-run car parking charges are rising despite opposition from Conservative councillors, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Parking prices are rising in Enfield
Parking charges are rising in Enfield

Plans to hike parking charges in Enfield will go ahead despite fears they will impact negatively on residents and businesses already struggling under a cost-of-living crisis.

Enfield Council is set to increase charges for kerbside parking spaces and bays in council-owned car parks across the borough, claiming it will boost the “turnover” of spaces and make the system easier to understand.

A report by civic centre bosses says the price rises – the first since 2018 – will also help to boost “sustainable” travel, such as walking, cycling and public transport.

Under the new rates – expected to be brought in from June – the cost of on-street parking for two hours will jump from £3 to £5.60. For council-owned car parks, a stay of five hours or more will increase from £6 to £10.

The increases differ slightly for Enfield Town, which already has higher charges than other parts of the borough.

Conservative councillors called in the decision to the council’s overview and scrutiny committee, warning that it would harm businesses and residents, including low earners and pregnant women. But during a meeting of the committee on Wednesday, Labour members backed the original decision.

Conservative leader Alessandro Georgiou told the meeting that it was “not the right time” to increase the charges, as the council should ensure it is not “putting an additional burden on residents” during the cost-of-living crisis.

He criticised the plans to “standardise” charges, warning this would have a bigger impact on more deprived areas. Cllr Georgiou called for a “ward-by-ward” approach, adding: “How are we going to get investment into Edmonton that is desperately needed for a lot of those independent shops if we are now increasing their parking charges to the rate of Enfield Town?”

The Tory group leader claimed the council wanted to force people out of their cars and said the changes would have a disproportionate impact on older residents, people with disabilities and pregnant women.

In response, cabinet member for environment Rick Jewell denied the council was “forcing people out of their cars”, claiming it was “standardising parking rates with other boroughs” and managing the “churn of traffic through our town centres”.

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Director of environment Doug Wilkinson said that, by law, the council had to “encourage the turnover of use” of spaces and discourage long stays, which would benefit “as many people as possible”.

Head of parking services David Morris said officers had taken into account the impact on all residents and proposed a “fair level” of charges that would increase turnover.

Councillors quizzed officers on why tests to gauge the demand for parking spaces took place in December, when town centres are likely to be busier with Christmas shoppers.

Officers said they had taken place early in the month – on 3rd and 7th December – when there were fewer shoppers, but they admitted that those were among the only dates available for the company that carried out the tests.

Under further questioning, officers denied the charges were designed to boost income for the council. They said any extra money would be spent on subsidising concessionary travel costs – although they admitted there was a risk that the hikes could lead to a drop in revenue, and the situation would have to be monitored.

Council bosses said they were not required to consult with traders on the changes but added that they would monitor the impact on businesses. They also said traders “generally welcomed” greater turnover of spaces.

Amid concerns over the impact on disadvantaged groups, officers said those at the low end of the pay scale generally cannot afford to own cars and tend to use other forms of transport instead. They added that the council was investing in infrastructure to encourage the use of public transport and walking and cycling.

Following the questioning, Cllr Georgiou criticised several of the officers’ responses and called for the decision to be referred back to the cabinet member to be looked at again, claiming his concerns had not been adequately addressed.

Conservative members of the committee voted in favour of his proposal, but Labour members – who hold a majority on the committee – voted to confirm the original decision.

After the vote had taken place, committee chair Margaret Greer called on officers to consider the points that had been made and to monitor the impact of the charges. She also suggested the topic would be discussed again at a future meeting of the committee.

In a separate controversy, the council has begun to remove all of its parking meters across the borough as part of a move towards cashless parking.

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