PLAID CYMRU’s Alun Williams is deputy leader of Ceredigion council and makes an astonishing admission.

Aberystwyth prom parking
Ceredigion council is planning parking charges for Aberystwyth promenade (File image)

He describes a public consultation on the authority’s crazy proposal to do away with up to 55 parking spaces between Aberystwyth’s Old College and south beach as “dishonest”, and the “worst run” he has “ever seen”.

Piling on the agony, he adds: “I’m honestly angry about the poor quality of the consultation…”

Time for a reality check. This is the deputy leader sounding off, someone in an assumedly stratospheric position of authority, the second most senior member of the council. 

If the consultation was as bad as he says - and it most certainly was - why didn’t he promptly step in and make sure it was up to scratch? 

Why didn’t he read the riot act and demand the consultation’s faults and shortcomings were rectified before it was too late?

Or is he actually a councillor with an exalted title who, like other elected members, has surrendered his authority to overbearing, power-loving officials?

I put it to him: “As deputy leader, you must surely take your share of the blame. Will you be considering your position?”

I don’t get a reply.

We’re left to conclude that this is an example of a member of the cabinet in the habit of deferring to officials but one who, sufficiently riled, raises the roof - but only when it’s too late to make any difference.

Overall, the deficiencies of the public consultation demand that this dreadful plan be abandoned. It has lost all legitimacy.

Now, the cabinet having failed the public, a cross-party group of six councillors has decisively stepped into the breach to try to protect the public interest.

They argue, with total justification, that the proposal to scrap these all-important parking spaces has not been examined sufficiently. They are asking for the decision to go ahead to be ‘called in’ to allow proper scrutiny. This extremely reasonable request has been met with a high-handed refusal by the council.

Undeterred, the councillors are now seeking legal advice and plan to resubmit their call-in request. They have right on their side.

The victims in this madcap scheme

AT THE sharp end of a madcap and ruinous scheme there are the victims.

These include Ceredigion council-tax-payers living on the outskirts of, or outside, Aberystwyth who take it as an entirely reasonable and time-honoured right to park for a while on the seafront for a stroll, an ice-cream perhaps, a cup of coffee, pausing for a chat with friends or acquaintances doing the same thing. 

A wonderfully innocent past-time now set to be ruined by the arbitrary imposition of a price-tag, or simply rendered impossible because all the old familiar parking slots along the seafront will have been blotted out by double yellow lines.

Other victims of this misspending of £4.8m of levelling-up cash are the untold numbers who need the existing parking spaces either to allow them to go to work, go shopping or to socialise in the town, or to conduct a range of businesses.

Levelling-up is meant to be about economic growth and regeneration. This deranged scheme would achieve the opposite. 

It would cause massive economic and social damage. Everyone understands that. Except the horribly out of touch Plaid Cymru-led Ceredigion council. 

According to them, all that matters is that the millions in question are poured into widening an already wide seafront pavement and making a completely unnecessary cycle-path. Get that done, they in effect tell us, and damn everything else.


And what about the working poor?

VERY IMPORTANTLY, lives of the many people who work in Aberystwyth and rely on seafront parking will be turned inside-out.

I spoke to someone in this category.

Sioned (not her real name; she didn’t want her identity revealed) is 23, was born in Aberystwyth and went to school there. She has a University of Portsmouth degree in marine biology and co-rents a small house 20 minutes from the town with a friend.

Unable so far to find a job relevant to her subject, she works full-time as an administrative assistant earning £21,000 and hopes ideally to eventually find a marine science-based rôle in or near Aberystwyth.

Out of her take-home pay of just over £1,500 a month she must find £700 as her share of £1,400 rent, plus roughly £340 for electricity, water and council tax. She spends about £160 monthly at supermarkets, has a £20 phone contract and runs a 20-year-old Renault, which costs her around £80 a month in petrol, tax, insurance and servicing.

This leaves her with barely £190 a month for everything else.

She told me: “At the moment, I always make sure I get to Aberystwyth in the mornings not later than 8.30 and always manage to find a parking space on the prom, which is quite near where I work.

“If they block off parking on the seafront or start charging for it I don’t know what I’ll do. I’ve looked into the alternatives, and the cheapest I can see would be Maes-yr-Afon car-park down Park Avenue. But that would be £6 a day - £30 a week, £120 a month.

“How can I afford that? I can’t, it’s just not on. On top of all my other outgoings, I’d be left with about £70 a month, or just over £17 a week. Clothes? Holidays? Going out? Putting money by for savings? Christmas and birthday presents? Forget it.

“I’m living on a shoestring as it is. But I manage. Just about. It feels all right at the moment, but my budget is very tight, and this is going to stretch it to breaking-point.

“This whole seafront parking thing - introducing charging, and getting rid of loads of useful parking spaces - and all so they can build an expensive cycle-path, which isn’t needed anyway… It’s just ridiculous, and it’s going to hit people like me really hard. 

“Basically, it’s going to put me virtually on the breadline. And, comparing notes with other people, I’m not the only one.

“I thought levelling-up money was supposed to be about job-creation, doing something positive for deprived areas. 

“All this is going to do is make life that much harder for the working-poor. It’s going to be doing the complete opposite of what it’s meant to do.

“I’m really fed up about it all. I feel like other people are taking over control of my life, and it’s not my fault. I like my settled life, and I don’t see why I should be forced into renting a bed-sit in town or, worse, moving into an HMO.

“I’m really worried, and it’s just not fair.”

This is a tale of a dignified life threatened with subsistence-level existence because of a council’s stubborn attachment to a destructive scheme totally lacking in public support. 

A plan hatched in a sealed room, its view of the outside world blacked out.

This will be one of many tales of lives thrown into disarray, if not badly damaged. Together, they build to a scandal this council will never live down.