LETTERS: Free parking - not ideal world

The debate over free parking in Banbury town centre continues
The debate over free parking in Banbury town centre continues

I write with regards to your ‘Opinion’ piece in last week’s Banbury Guardian – specifically your call for councillors to tell readers what they think over the parking debate.

You have asked for justification for the continued charges, which I believe we have already provided on a number of occasions. Our response remains the same, but I will try to put the situation into context so that your readers can see the dilemma we face at CDC.

Firstly, we recognise that retailers continue to feel the effects of the tough trading climate. In an ideal world we would like to be in a position to provide an element of free parking. However, we are not operating in an ideal world.

Cherwell District Council is also facing extremely challenging financial times.

Over the past six years we have seen a reduction in our spend from £23.5m in 2007/08 to £13.9m in 2013/14 (a reduction of 41 per cent) and we have made this reduction without an adverse impact on the vast majority of services we provide to residents and businesses.

With the Government grant set to reduce further from £8.4m in 2013/14, to £7.2m in 14/15 and again in 15/16 to £6.1m the maths are simple; we cannot implement free parking without having to generate additional income and this would impact not just on motorists but on all taxpayers. The other option would be to make savage and far reaching cuts to other non-statutory services and I am sure you would agree that both of these are equally unpalatable.

Cllr George Reynolds

Deputy Leader, Cherwell District Council

I want to respond to the great deal of public discussion there has been on the issue of parking in Banbury, not least the campaign supported by the Banbury Guardian, including a #freeparkinginbanbury Twitter campaign.

The Labour group is concerned about the cost of parking in Cherwell.

It is clear the district council has grown over-reliant on the proceeds that it makes from parking charges.

This is one of the reasons we are currently developing Labour’s policies ahead of future elections, in particular the all-out elections to the district council due to take place in the spring of 2016.

The issue of parking is one area we will be looking at closely because we do feel something needs to be done.

Sean Woodcock

Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Labour Group on Cherwell District Council

Before I became a councillor I backed free parking in Banbury.

When you become a councillor you start to learn how budgets work and in my view if we had blanket free parking in Banbury town centre the loss in budget to 
Cherwell District Council would need a council tax increase of 22-23 per cent – and that would need a referendum.

It is my view most councillors at Cherwell would love free parking in Banbury, but how to balance the books is another matter.

Maybe a way forward to attract people to Banbury is park and ride, like Oxford and the ones being built in Bicester.

Do I personally back free parking in Banbury? Yes.

But who pays for the short fall in funding to the Cherwell District Council is another thing.

I ask the people of Banbury to send their ideas to us. I’m sure all councillors would welcome fresh ideas.

And of course all councillors, from whatever political affiliation, will look at how other councils pay for free parking.

Cllr Mark Cherry

Labour, Banbury Town Council, Cherwell District Council and Oxfordshire County Council

More letters in this week’s Banbury Guardian.