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Parking fees will increase to protect frontline services

Parking fees will increase to protect frontline services

23 March 2023
[ Zoom ]
Overhead view of cars in a car park

Off-street car parking fees in Wokingham Borough will increase for the first time in five years so that its roads and footways are well maintained without affecting vital frontline services.

The council's decision-making executive approved the raise last night (Tuesday, 21 March) to ensure it can continue to protect the borough’s most vulnerable residents in tough financial times.

It sought people's views for more than a month while drawing up a traffic order to enable the fee increase, but after going through every comment it found no valid reason not to proceed.

The council realises this change isn't welcomed, but it expects a significant shortfall in income from parking and must make this up.

Listening carefully before taking the final decision

Following initial feedback on the proposed increase, the council revised it to include a "two-tier" system with a lower increase for car parks outside Wokingham town.

This shows it was willing to listen and compromise as much as possible, but ultimately it must protect its finances to keep services running as it faces unprecedented pressures.

Without the increase, the council wouldn't be able to keep up a high standard of highway maintenance without taking money from vital services like children's and adults' social care.

It is not willing to let this happen as, despite the current challenges, it has pledged to protect the services that its most vulnerable residents need while keeping highways users safe.

Staying competitive and promoting alternatives

The predicted shortfall in parking income comes from a range of factors including increased home working after the coronavirus pandemic, which has become a “new normal” and isn’t expected to change.

Unlike many other local authorities, the council hasn't increased off-street charges since April 2018 and they've remained among the lowest locally and regionally.

The change will come into effect this summer at the earliest, and the revised fees will remain comparable to those in similar parts of the country.

At the same time, the council is pressing on with several initiatives to make walking, cycling and taking public transport safer and easier as a sustainable alternative to driving and parking.

A necessary and long-overdue change

It's clear from recent responses that some residents aren't happy, which the council understands as it never expected the news to be welcomed.

However, these charges haven't increased in a long time and this will get them where they always needed to be to balance the council's books and keep looking after the footpaths, cycle paths and roads that everyone uses.

Without doing this, the council would have to make tough decisions in other areas that would be just as unpopular, if not more so. Its costs are rising across the board while income sources are stagnating or even falling, so something has to change.

The increase may appear drastic at first but, had fees gone up more gradually since April 2018 - as has been the case for other councils – it hopes many residents would see they’re more reasonable.

Supporting everyone who needs it

The council knows this news may alarm those struggling with rising living costs, including people with children or other dependants, so it's important to know that help is still here for everyone.

It offers a wide range of support, either through its own services or in partnership with other organisations, and anyone in difficulty should visit the website or get in touch to find out more.

The council continues to receive the least central Government funding of any unitary authority in the country, and it has written to ministers highlighting the need for an increase.

Despite this, it has committed extra funds to initiatives like its council tax reduction scheme, as it recognises the need to help those struggling financially.

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