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Vale Cabinet approves measures to make council car parks more sustainable

Important measures to make parking more sustainable in the Vale of White Horse will be introduced later this year.

Council taxpayers have been subsidising district council car parks for many years, with the service typically running at a loss of about £300,000 a year.  The shortfall has now risen to almost £450,000 following the Covid-19 pandemic.

On 4 February, Cabinet members agreed changes which balance the need to reduce the deficit, the council’s commitment to tackling the climate emergency and the needs of local businesses.

One hour of free parking in Vale car parks will be maintained, a reduction from the current two hours each day.  A new charge of £1.50 will apply for up to two hours – except for Southampton Street car park in Faringdon*. Current fees across all car parks will also rise by 40p.

To improve management of the car parks and help meet demand, all new and renewed permits will be non-transferable and therefore only valid for the specific car park for which they are issued. 

The changes will be widely publicised before they commence.

Cllr Emily Smith, Leader of the Vale of White Horse District Council, said: “The measures we’ve agreed mark a significant step to reducing our car parks deficit and our first real step towards making this service financially sustainable.

“We have committed to providing free parking in our car parks to ensure the service works to support local businesses.  An hour’s free parking each day will be in line with what’s on offer to motorists in South Oxfordshire. Parking in the Vale continues to offer good value for money.  Our fees remain cheaper than many other areas, including Oxford, Swindon and Newbury, and we will continue to monitor car park usage so that we can understand whether this change has any impact on the number of people visiting our towns.

“In considering the changes we looked closely at our commitment to tackling the climate emergency.  We know that many of our residents want to see more public transport and safer and easier cycling and walking routes rather than simply continuing to subsidise car parking.

“In recent years we’ve been severely impacted by cuts to government funding and the loss of income due to Covid.  We also have one of the lowest rates of council tax in the country which places a further strain on our finances.  When costs have increased, current rules have largely prevented us from addressing this situation, meaning we’ve had to increase charges for some of our non-statutory services in order to raise additional income.”

Notes for editors

The approved changes are subject to scrutiny.

*Due to the potential displacement of vehicles to the large supermarket car park outside the town centre, two hours free parking will remain available at Southampton Street car park in Faringdon.

Council funds and residents’ council tax subsidise the car parks and further support comes from a central government grant known as New Homes Bonus, which is based mainly on new homes being built in the district.  However, without a firm commitment from the government to extend this funding beyond 2023/24 the council has to prepare for the possibility of it ending and take appropriate action now to protect vital services in the future.