Charges and cuts to balance books

DRIVERS will pay an estimated £1.5 million every year in new parking charges being introduced by South Gloucestershire Council.

Despite most people who responded to a consultation opposing the new charges, council bosses are pressing ahead with the unpopular plan anyway.

The parking fees will first be introduced to council-owned car parks across South Gloucestershire, before on-street parking fees are brought in too.

Council-owned car parks include the Lyde Green Park and Ride, but the charges will not affect privately-owned sites such as Emersons Green retail park.

Over 1,800 people responded to a council consultation on its budget, and almost 70% opposed the new charges.

Council leader Claire Young has said some parking spaces will stay free, but added: “We can’t simply not do the parking charges without providing alternative means of generating that income.

“The other charges that may have had higher satisfaction levels are absolutely minuscule in comparison to the amounts expected to be generated.”

The Liberal Democrat/Labour run council is hoping that the extra income means fewer cuts have to be made to essential public services.

However union Unison says spending cuts of £473,000 to libraries and £79,000 to the contact centre and One Stop Shops, along with £641,000 a year from council trading arm Integra, are “likely” to mean job losses, cuts to working hours and opening times.

Plans to introduce a £10 fee for disabled drivers to apply for or renew a blue badge, to raise an extra £46,000 per year, could “isolate an already isolated community”, disability group Equalities Voice has warned.

By Alex Seabrook & Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service