The much heralded and long overdue review in Kettering’s car parking charges was announced last night.
Tucked away at the back of the monthly finance report and without any ceremony or advance warning, Kettering Council’s Executive Committee agreed their proposals to keep to their Conservative manifesto commitment to reduce car park charges.
They agreed to allow an extra hours worth of free parking between 8am and 9am on Saturday and put in a couple of extra bands allowing drivers to now choose to pay for 4 hours or 5 hours, and that is it!
I addressed the committee waving a copy of their own election manifesto where they had put reducing car parking charges as number two on their list of ten commitments and promises. I told them that I was very disappointed with what they were proposing and this was a missed opportunity to deal with a subject that has always been controversial locally and was of great concern to the public and to town centre businesses.
I asked if there had been any kind of consultation with local residents or businesses at all. Given they didn’t answer, and there was no mention of any in the actual report, I can only assume there was not! They probably wanted to just sneak this decision through as quietly as possible and were only suggesting the small changes they were because they had to do something.
One of the committee members even said “we have reduced charges by not putting them up” referring to the fact charges haven’t gone up with inflation over the last few years. He went in to admit this was a small review but felt “in these uncertain times this was in the best interest of the council” and then suggested they may be able to make bigger changes in three years time.
I stand by my comments that this was a missed opportunity. They had promised to reduce car parking charges and technically they have, but by such a minuscule amount they are unable to predict what difference, if any, it will make to the amount of revenue they collect each year.
Given that this was one of the main Conservative election promises back in 2015 I cannot see how local residents will be anything but disappointed. They have kicked this issue into touch for the last few years and have now pushed through the smallest possible changes in the quietest possible way.
Mick Scrimshaw is the Leader of the Labour Group at Kettering Borough Council, the Shadow Cabinet Member for Finance at Northamptonshire County Council. He has a public record of standing up for Kettering as a County Councillor for the Northall division in Kettering, Northants and since May 2015, a Borough Councillor for the William Knibb ward. He is a keen cyclist and also runs a family business with his wife.