It’s no secret that Blackpool is one of the most expensive towns to park in the UK, but despite this, parking charges are to increase by up to 200% under the stewardship of Ian Fowler.
The Conservative councillor for Waterloo – recently cleared of bringing his authority into disrepute by the Standards Board – said that the charges at Gynn Square, Seed Street and Banks Street car parks will be brought up to the levels of other car parks in the town. This means that what currently costs you £2.20 (8 hours) will cost £7.50. What currently costs £3.30 (24 hours) will cost you £10.00.
“We don’t put charges up just to raise revenue.
“This is not a cash cow.
“Everything is looked at very carefully to make sure we don’t disadvantage anyone. We need people to come into town and to come into our shops.”
- Cllr Ian Fowler, Conservative, Waterloo Ward
To add further insult to injury, Mr Fowler has increased the charges in lots of other car parks, such as Cocker Street, Central, and Bonny Street, and he is removing hourly rates, so you can only pay in blocks of time. This means that no longer will you be able to pay for just the time you need – you have to pay for “up to” a certain number of hours. Once again, taking choice out of our hands in order to profit.
Fowler claims this is to increase the time people spend in the town centre, but I would question this rash methodology. Clearly, Fowler thinks that by spending more time in town, people will spend more. I completely disagree. When you go to an all-you-can-eat Chinese, you eat what you want, then you leave. You don’t stay and eat every scrap of food in the entire restaurant. Similarly when I go to buy things, I go, I buy, then I leave. And then someone else can have my space and do the same.
Say I go into town and what I plan to do takes about 2 hours. On the planet that Ian Fowler lives on, making me pay for up to 4 hours means that instead of going home, I’m going to rush round shops like a raging bull on speed, handing over fistfuls of used notes for even more goods that I never set out to buy.
In the real world, this isn’t the case. It’s far better in my view to have a greater turnover of people that want to spend than have a lot of people in town that don’t.
But lets assume Mr Fowler isn’t a complete simpleton. Perhaps he realises that car parks like Seed Street and Bank Street were intended as longer stay car parks for people that work in Blackpool. Maybe he realises that shoppers don’t park there because the location is crap.
Perhaps he’s rising the car parking charges because he knows that it’ll be a regular income for him.
Assume the average Blackpool worker works 5 days per week with 25 days holiday. Assume they park in one of the affected car parks and pay £2.20 for 8 hours (not that 8 hours is enough, of course, unless you work less than 9-5 or can teleport to the door of your work and back). They would currently spend £519.20 per year on parking. Ian Fowler wants to increase this to £1770: an extra £1180 per year. It’s a bit more subtle than Council Tax, but it hits the local working ratepayer even harder – without all the headlines.
It could also be an increase to offset “considerable” losses of income incurred due to the handing over of the Houndshill car park to NCP.
If you cut down to the bare essentials, this is a blanket car parking charge increase for everyone, dramatically hitting those that work in town to the tune of about £5 more per day. I don’t know whether it’s a coincidence, but Preston announced an increase a couple of days ago. It’s still cheaper to park there than Blackpool though. There is a proposal from the Labour group in Preston to scrap free parking for council workers and get them to pay £200. This is unbelievably cheap but still, it’s a start. Maybe the same should be extended to town hall workers in Blackpool.
This isn’t the first time Ian Fowler has shafted us though. In conjunction with Julian Kearsley, he pumped the on-street parking tariffs up by 66% in 2008.
Fowler went on to stun me with even more utter garbage. He claimed that traffic wardens were not out there hiding round corners ready to pounce on people that overstayed their ticket time. I know a traffic warden, and I can tell you quite categorically that whilst it might not be policy, they definitely do it. They call it “haunting”.
If the council wanted to implement a proper car parking regime, they should take a leaf out of NCP’s book. Or out of the book of many other councils and companies that have done the same. What am I on about? The system of parking whereby you take a ticket upon entry, spend as much or as little time about your business as you like, then settle the ticket at a pay machine when you leave. And since you can’t get out of the car park unless you’ve paid, you don’t need any car park wardens!
This is the fairest way of charging people for parking, rather than the cynical “pay for more than you need” parking charge mind games that Ian Fowler wants to play. It seems like a win-win system to me, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why they haven’t implemented it at every car park by now.