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Wilts Council - parking U-turn ahead after panic and fiasco of new charges

(July 17, 2011)
tWILTSHIRE Council is in a panic and about to do a major policy U-turn on car parking charges.
The cause of the panic is twofold.
Firstly the imposition of the charges has caused a huge political firestorm across the county with people able to see with their own eyes the destruction of their own town centres in a just a few months. This has led to local newspapers actively campaigning against the council.
Secondly the increased charges are bringing in less money than the lower charges levied last year.
On Tuesday the leader of the county council, Mrs Jane Scott, effectively admitted defeat at the full council meeting in Devizes when she announced that a review will take place in November. Click here
The review will involve  a year-on-year analysis of the number of cars using every car park in the county and the total revenue gained will test how they have fared compared to last year.
The is also the possibility that  a countywide redemption scheme along the lines of the one being introduced in Warminster could be brought in.
''It is quite clear that the authorities are alarmed as people can see the lifeblood being drained from their town centres and this council is to blame,'' said former county councillor Steve Dancey.
''In Warminster we have had the double-whammy of on-street parking being removed from our town centres- recent visits to Marlborough and Midsomer Norton, which still have copious on-street parking provision, reminded me of just how important that was - how do we get it back? Our own councillors Keith Humphries, Fleur de Rhe Philipe  and Andrew Davis backed that piece of vandalism.
''But what really shocks me is that the highly paid officials we employ, some of them on 100k+ a year, simply do not know about elasticity of demand and supply - the factors that govern prices.
''The simple truth in Warminster is if you double the cost of the parking the number of people using the car park falls by 75 per cent because there are free car parks and residential streets to use, albeit requiring an element of walking. This cuts revenue by half.
''This is true in many other market towns - where demand is also eleastic. In big cities where there are no alternatives and people have to use the car parks for work or to reach an essential destination, demand is less elastic and if you double the charges, the number of users will fall a little but not sufficiently to reduce revenue.
''Bath is large enough to cope with high charges but I'm afraid Salisbury isn't - and I know the traders are suffering there as well.''
The new Scottish chief executive of Wiltshire council has come from big city authorities and clearly doesn't really understand the realities of Wiltshire's market towns - time he did.
The car parking charge fiasco is not Wiltshire Council's finest hour.

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