THE extra money Powys County Council makes from car parking is essential to deliver a balanced budget, a council chief has said.
Claims have been made ever since the budget for 2023/2024 was set in February, that car parking charges would have a detrimental impact on town centres and drive people away from shopping there.
In the budget monitoring report for April to June period, the Highways, Transport and Recycling service forecast that they will make £314,000 from car parking fees by the end of next March.
This is well over the £50,000 they had originally estimated.
Conservative Cllr Pete Lewington brought up the issue at a meeting of the Finance Panel on Friday, September 14 which looked at the budget monitoring report for the first quarter of the 2023/2024 financial year.
Cllr Lewington said: “I was in a way pleased but also surprised to see the £314,000 forecast over achievement from car park income, which I now believe has gone up even further to £392,000.
“When the budget was set, the increase was meant to help to achieve a target saving of £50,000.
“I wonder how we’ve managed to achieve such a fantastic result of now having an over achievement of this size.”
Head of finance, Jane Thomas said: “This has been raised in a few arenas and in terms of what the projections were.”
Ms Thomas explained that car park use was expected to be “much lower.”
Ms Thomas said: “The costings were very prudent; budget saving was offered up as a result of that.”
“What we are seeing is down to the demand of the car parks and that income is now much higher than anticipated.
“For that service that income is fundamental to maintaining a balanced budget.
“Without that additional income being generated that service would be reporting an overspend.
“That money is helping them offset that, it’s good to see that happening at that point in time.”
Cllr Arwel Lewis said that this: “could change in the future.”
He reminded the panel that details of an imminent review of the car parking fees was expected before all councillors soon.
At the last full council meeting in July, cabinet member for highways and transport, Liberal Democrat Cllr Jackie Charlton announced that a review would be held.
This saw opposition councillors withdraw of motion calling for a review taking place at the meeting.
Before that meeting, Cllr Gareth E Jones from the Independents for Powys and Cllr Graham Breeze of the Independent group had joined forces and submitted a motion calling for a review.
A Powys County Council spokesman said: “A car park review paper is being presented to the council’s Executive Management Team (senior staff) later this month.
“Following this, a proposal will be made to bring together a fully governed cross-party working group who will commence the review.”