Parking charges look set to return when cash-strapped Angus Council sets its budget for the coming year.
And it could mean covers being lifted off meters which have been out of action for three years since Covid struck.
But the authority’s ruling SNP group says it will learn lessons from the fiasco which followed the return of charges after more than two decades under the previous administration before making a call on their re-introduction.
Angus taxpayers have been warned the forthcoming budget is the most challenging the council has faced.
Its finance chief has forecast an “alarming and depressing” £51 million financial black hole in the next three years.
So the possibility of generating income from the return of off-street parking charges has not escaped scrutiny.
SNP group finalising budget plans
Authority leader Beth Whiteside said her ruling group is still working on the details of its budget.
However, it’s clear the return of pay and display is under consideration.
“What I can say is that, while in opposition, our group were very critical around the decision-making process before the previous implementation of parking charges,” she said.
“As well as the lack of public (and cross-party) consultation prior to the charges coming into force, there was no move to carry out an economic impact assessment following the implementation.
“We felt (that) was important, given the outcry from small businesses over the scheme at the time,” she added.
The painful past
The previous Conservative/Independent alliance led the re-introduction of charges at 33 off-street car parks in November 2018.
It cost £300,000 to put the scheme in place.
But the move was met with an instant wave of opposition.
- Empty car parks
- Meters vandalised
- A 5,000-signature petition presented to council chiefs in a noisy Forfar protest
- Business takings plummet and staff laid off
- First full-year income fail to reach even half the forecast £700k.
- Nearly £50k spent to convert meters to take cash after driver complaints
And there were accusations of hypocrisy after council leader David Fairweather and Carnoustie Independent Brian Boyd both dodged charges by parking for free at a Forfar supermarket while on council business.
The council’s current Conservative/Independent opposition group has not said whether parking charges will feature in any alternative budget they might put forward.
Public survey revealed widespread resistance
Meters have remained covered since March 2020 when charges were suspended due to Covid.
But the scale of public opposition was laid bare in a 2021 public survey.
More than 3,000 people responded online and 70% said they did not want to see charges return.
The handling of the re-introduction was branded “shambolic”.
Many were highly critical of the lack of public consultation before the charges were re-introduced.