The suspension of council car parking charges in Wirral will continue into the autumn to help boost local businesses.
On street parking charges as well as those at council car parks and the country parks were suspended at the start of the COVID-19 lockdown in March.
This was extended for a further month and now the Leader of Wirral Labour Group and Cabinet Member for Finance & Resources, Cllr Janette Williamson, has announced plans to continue the extension as part of a series of steps to support the Wirral economy.
Cllr Williamson said: “As the borough moves to the next phase of tackling the coronavirus pandemic more businesses have been re-opening. But I know many of them are still struggling.
“Wirral Council has been one of the leading authorities in helping local businesses and traders during the pandemic and I am determined to continue that good work.
“By extending the suspension of car parking charges we can help encourage more people who may be wary of public transport at this time to visit their local shops and support them, and by doing so support local workers.
“And by allowing the continuation of free parking at our country parks I hope people will use this to help keep healthy and take regular exercise while also maintaining social distancing.”
The cost of suspending parking charges is estimated to be in the region of £30,000 to £50,000 per month and was not part of the budget for 2020-2021, as set last year.
Some additional funding for tackling the impacts of the pandemic and the lockdown, including help for businesses has been provided by the Government, although none of that funding is able to be used to replace income lost from suspending parking charges.
Cllr Williamson said: “The Government has already made some extra funds available which have supported Wirral’s response to the pandemic and, along with other local authorities, we await news of further funding and flexibilities to deal with the current budget situation.”
“As a Council we are still committed to our long-term environmental strategy around encouraging and facilitating active travel and a reduction in the use of cars going forward. and that will inform any future decisions but no one could have foreseen the events which have caused such massive disruption not just in this country but across the world. Whilst our aspiration was to encourage residents to use public transport more, it is clear that many do not feel comfortable doing so and as such are still choosing to use their cars. The impact of the coronavirus and the lockdown has meant we have had to take steps we could not have predicted. Now our focus must remain on keeping residents safe and helping our businesses get back on their feet.”
It is proposed that the issue of car parking charges be reviewed at the first meeting of the cross party Policy and Resources Committee when it meets for the first time in October. A wholesale review of parking charges across the Borough has been requested and a report will also be available for the Committee to consider.