Reading Conservatives Attack Stealth Car Park Charge Increases
Reading Conservatives have attacked elements of planned car park charge increases. Speaking tonight at the ruling Labour Group’s Cabinet meeting, Conservative Transport spokesman Cllr Richard Willis warned Labour that they would come to regret plans to scrap long-standing special Sunday and Bank Holiday rates at the Cattle Market, Kings Meadow and Hills Meadow car parks.
He highlighted that the £1 charge at Hills and Kings Meadow car parks will be replaced with a charge of £1.80 or £2.00 for 1-2 hours and £6.00 or £7.00 for over 2 hours. That is an increase of between 80% and 700%! The existing free period on Saturdays (between 1300 and 1800) at Hills Meadow will also be charged in future at standard rates (£1.80 up to 2hrs and £6.00 over 2 hrs).
At the Cattle Market the Sunday and Bank Holiday charge of £3.00 will be replaced with a charge of £4.50. A 50% increase. The Cabinet papers indicate that in a full year all the changes taken together will raise an extra £70,000.
A second measure is a proposal that “Micro park and ride” schemes with “pay and display machines” are to be introduced at Palmer Park in East Reading and Clayfield Copse in Caversham Park Village. Cllr Willis expressed concerns over the proposal for Clayfield Copse and the existing poor state of the car park surface. He noted that increased use would cause a more rapid deterioration in the car park and called for improvements to be made before any increased use was agreed.
Cllr Willis also pointed out that details of charges at Clayfield Copse were not included in the Cabinet papers and if they were to be the same as the proposal for Palmer Park (2hrs free and £4.00 up to 16hrs) would be problematic for some leisure users. Labour agreed to ensure investment to improve the car park and to consult further with Peppard ward Councillors on the proposal. Cllr Willis suggested that non-bus users should continue to enjoy free use of the car park and the pay and display machines be adjusted to issue different tickets for leisure and for park and ride users of the car park.
Speaking after the meeting Cllr Willis said, “Labour attempted to sneak through significant stealth increases in some car park charges which will affect the many people who currently use these Council car parks to enjoy leisure activities on Sundays and Bank Holidays. Labour will come to regret this decision. This is not about deterring commuters it is purely a revenue raising exercise to rake in an extra £70,000 from ordinary local users of the car parks affected.
On the Clayfield Copse proposal it was obvious tonight that Labour had not thought this through properly. The car park is not in a fit state to take a lot of extra vehicles and needs considerable work to upgrade the surface. I am pleased that I have obtained a commitment to undertake immediate repairs and the possibility of complete resurfacing but the Council must look again at the proposal to charge £4 to non bus users who need to stay longer than 2 hours. I agree with increasing Park and Ride but this ill-thought out proposal risks penalising local people who use the many associated sports facilities in and around Clayfield Copse.”
Conservative Group Leader Cllr Tim Harris added, “I am clear that our group is here to serve the people of Reading, and I am sure that people in Reading don’t want massive hikes in parking fees. I genuinely believe we should be looking to make our town, parks and shopping centres as accessible as possible, to ensure they continue to thrive, unlike Labour, who seem to want to pack on as many charges and inconvenience that they can get away with.”