Express & Star

Weekend and evening parking charges to go up in Stafford from January 1

Visitors to a town centre will pay more next year if they use council car parks in the evening or on Sundays.

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The Tenterbanks car park in Stafford. Photo: Google

From January 1 the evening and Sunday parking charge at Stafford Borough Council facilities will rise from £1 to £1.10, while one hour’s parking in Stone will go up from 70p to 80p.

These rises are just two of the increases set to be above inflation, after the fees and charges for 2024 were formally approved at a Stafford Borough Council meeting on Tuesday. Fees and charges are also set to go up for services including garden waste collection, which will rise from £36 to £42 for the year.

Councillor Ralph Cooke, cabinet member for resources, said: “The garden waste fee reflects planned increases in the 2023/24 budget created by the Conservatives. Parking charges for evenings and Saturdays have gone up from £1 to £1.10 – we could solve that by changing the machines so they accept 5p coins but the cost of doing that would probably be the economics of a madhouse, so they are rounded up by 10p.”

Other fees and charges going up by more than the rate of inflation include some relating to crematorium services. Councillors were told that these increases were due to supply cost rises – and the authority had “little choice” but to pass on these rises to service users, Councillor Cooke said.

He added: “For 2024, inflation is defined as 9 per cent. However, the good news is that in general, where officers have been delegated authority, those prices will rise by approximately 6 per cent.

“The budget for 2023/24 identified an initial budget gap of about £200,000. That was a budget created by the previous Conservative administration; they had to create it because the financial year began in April when they were still in control and we didn’t have the election until May.

“Although this gap (for 2024/25) is £240,000 – relatively small – there is no idea of the Government’s financial settlement for 2024/25 and what it is likely to be. We don’t their thinking at all and likely won’t know until just before Christmas.

“The higher the yield from fees and charges, the smaller that budget gap will be, which reduces the need to cut services. But relatively high charges may exclude or discourage some customers from using council services when they normally depend on such services -and relatively high charges could also have an adverse effect on the level of trade and economic activity in the borough, for example parking charges.

“Some charges are set by external regulators and organisations and we have no control over those. There are a number of fees that are proposed to be frozen, for example market fees, due to the current trading environment.

“There are also some new fees, such as the early morning cremation service we haven’t had before. There are also some fees that are proposed to be deleted, such as course fees for food hygiene training and replacement of lost season parking tickets.”

But speaking after the meeting, opposition group leader Jeremy Pert said: “Supporting residents by holding brown bin charges, when the previous Labour opposition strongly opposed the charge and said that they would abolish them, if ever in office, would have been an obvious thing to do, when so many people are facing a cost of living squeeze for the second year in a row with additional fuel, food and housing costs.

"And supporting residents and businesses alike by holding fees and charges and encouraging footfall into the borough’s main towns by removing afternoon parking charges (in the run up to Christmas) would have helped drive footfall.

“Instead we have the borough council benefitting by higher interest rates and prudent financial management. It just does not make any real sense, if there is an understanding of the council’s finances.”