Ipswich Borough Council to increase prices in council-owned car parks
Two price rises are planned in the next seven months for council-owned car parks in Ipswich, according to a new report.
Ipswich Borough Council’s Labour administration is proposing increases in August and January to off-street car park charges, which it says is necessary to maintain the same level of service during the cost of living crisis.
But opposition councillors have said it demonstrated a lack of vision when the town centre needed support for footfall.
The council’s executive will next week agree to increase short-stay tariffs from £1.30 to £1.40 an hour as of August 1, with a further 10p rise from January 9.
In addition, long stay charges will go up from £1 per hour to £1.20, up to £6.20 for an all day ticket.
The “two after two” deal – £2 after 2pm on weekdays will also increase to £2.50, while the promotion at Crown Car Park where the first hour is £1 will also be removed.
Changes are also planned to bulk-buying of season parking passes, while parking charges will apply until 10pm from August, rather than 8pm.
The Labour administration said it comes about as part of a need to address the financial shortfall from parking income, and encourage people to use public transport for the benefit of the environment.
Cllr Sophie Connelly, Labour portfolio holder for customers, said: “The Labour administration slashed car parking charges when we took control of the council 11 years ago, and has ensured car parks have remained cheaper ever since – even with these increases they will still be over 20% cheaper in real terms than they were in 2011.
“Our short-stay car parks are also cheaper than what is charged at other comparable local authority car parks in the region – the average two-hour town centre stay is more expensive in Bury St Edmunds by 15p, 23 per cent more expensive in Colchester and 54 per cent more expensive in Norwich.
“The cost of living crisis impacts the council. Inflation is forecast to reach 10 per cent and our major source of income – council tax – is limited to an increase of 2 per cent.
“So to maintain the same level of service to the members of the public it is necessary to increase parking charges. It is also necessary to strike a balance between an appropriate income from parking, its impact on the town centre and businesses located there and encouraging a shift to sustainable modes of transport.”
According to figures in the executive report, in 2021/22 a £1.3m shortfall in car park income was reported as a result of the substantial drop in demand during the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent change of working patterns which means many workers now continue to work from home.
The change comes as the cost of living crisis continues to impact on family finances. Among cost increases in recent months have been energy bills, council tax precepts, petrol costs and supermarket trips.
Meanwhile, the bounce back of the town centre from the Covid-19 pandemic also remains a key talking point.
The opposition Conservative group said the car park charges would impact both.
Cllr Ian Fisher, group leader, said: “It is disappointing that the Labour group running IBC fail to see the negative impact this may have on the future of the town centre, which is already struggling to increase footfall.
“I understand that finances have not been great over the past couple of years but this decision shows a real lack of vision. In our manifesto for the recent election we outlined a plan that could see parking charges reimbursed if money was spent with an independent retailer.
“The council needs to do more work with Ipswich Central to increase the length of time people spend in the town centre and any increases to parking charges will have the opposite effect.
“Three councils surrounding Ipswich have recently released plans to help their residents with the cost of living, here in Ipswich the Labour group have increased council rents and are now increasing parking charges.
“When both these decisions have a negative effect on Ipswich they will then blame the Conservative government. Sadly, this feels like it is all a political game to them.”
Executive will meet from 6pm on Tuesday for a decision.