A TASK and Finish report which was intended to ‘research different approaches to car parking charges that could be applied in the county’ has been criticised for failing to suggest any real changes to the status quo.
The Task and Finish group was commissioned last year, following numerous petitions for free parking in Carmarthenshire and the implementation of a reduced trial in Llanelli.
The group, comprised of cross-party members of the Environmental and Public Protection Scrutiny Committee, was also c harged with evaluating a pay-on-exit system for Llanelli multi-storey car park.
The report found, based on a number of national reports and the council’s own data, that there was a need for parking charges, not least to ensure vehicle turnover, and that the revenue was necessary to support infrastructure works, notably the refurbishment of Llanelli multi-storey car park which cost £1.8m in 2012.
However, it failed to reference other reports commissioned by neighbouring authorities which, while supportive of charging for parking, all point out that the revenue benefit of charging by local authorities needs to be weighed against the adverse effect of charging on town centre trade.
In spite of the significant variation in parking charges from town to town, it was claimed that ‘Carmarthenshire’s current charges were extremely competitive’ – something which must have come as news to Carmarthen visitors who paid more for 1-3 hours parking than any of the 15 towns across Wales referenced.
Other recommendations made to the group included re-instating free parking on Sundays, the introduction of ‘shop and drop’ initiatives in town centres, free parking on weekday afternoons, and the simplification of parking bands. None of these recommendations were endorsed, although it was suggested that ‘Where feasible, the Council introduces ‘shop and drop’ bays in the county’s towns, in proportion to the size of the town and spaces available, for a limited waiting time of up to 30 minutes.’
The cancelling of car parking charges on Sundays, it was warned, would cost the local authority £132,259 per year.
However, the report recommended that ‘free parking days’, should be increased from five to seven a year. At present free parking days are not permitted in December, and the report recommended that they should be prohibited in November as well. Given that Carmarthen enjoyed a notable increase in footfall by offering free parking on the last weekend in November last year, this is also unlikely to prove universally popular.
FREE PARKING DAYS
At present, free parking days are permitted if the days are agreed a month or more in advance, private sector car park operators are asked to match the council offer, and ‘the Council’s support is acknowledged in all marketing literature, adverts and publicity for events.’ Organisers are also ‘encouraged’ to advertise in ‘Carmarthenshire News’ – a selffunding newsletter put out by the council and other stakeholders.
The data for the free parking trial in Llanelli last year – which as The Herald reported at the time was somewhat less than what was requested – was not included in the report. However, the analysis stated that the one month trial of free parking between 3pm and 5pm had not led to any increases in footfall which could not be classed as being in line with trends or as a result of exceptional events. It was further found that ‘displacement’ meant that any increases in car park users were met with reductions when parking charges were in place.
A less official free parking trial in Cardigan last year, when traders reported large increases in footfall as the result of sabotaged meters, was also not considered.
ALUN LENNY SPEAKS TO THE HERALD
Cllr Alun Lenny, a town and county councillor in Carmarthen, was one of those who found the report somewhat underwhelming in its scope. Speaking to The Herald, Cllr Lenny stated his intention to question the Environment and Public Protection Scrutiny Committee on Friday (May 13).
“I am disappointed that this report seems to deny free parking is an effective economic lever, with no evidence I can see to substantiate that,” he said.
“The main objective of this report was to research different approaches to parking in Carmarthenshire. I would question the nature and scope of the research undertaken.
“They didn’t involve individuals or bodies, or give them the opportunity to present evidence in person, nor did they visit other towns and counties to carry out research.
“Instead, they based their research on figures and reports which were presented to them by the council’s own officers, without challenging these.
“In that case, as the Task and Finish Group report is based on little evidence other than that provided by council officers, I believe that the Scrutiny Committee should consider rejecting the report, on the basis that it has not fulfilled its own remit.”
Cllr Lenny also criticised the claims made about car parking charges in Carmarthenshire being ‘extremely competitive’.
“For 1-3 hours parking, Carmarthen is the most expensive on the list of towns in the report,” he remarked. Pointing out that charges varied from £1 to £3.40 across the county, he asked how these could be treated equally.
“This is just something cobbled together by officers – I have no doubt this is an officer-led report,” he added.
The claim that removing Sunday car parking charges would cost CCC more than £130,000 was also queried by Cllr Lenny, given that in 2013 when the charges were first announced it was estimated that they would earn around £70,000 in revenue for the council. “I hardly think our car parks are packed on Sundays,” he remarked.
The Scrutiny Committee will have the opportunity to make recommendations on the report on Friday, before it goes before the Executive Board and the Full Council at a later date.
Business offer Welsh Government help in ‘non-essential’ shopping row
THIS morning (Tuesday, October 27), the Wales Retail Consortium, CBI Wales and Association of Convenience stores presented the Welsh Government joint recommendation to resolve the confusion over non-essential items.
The three industry bodies’ statement expresses the hope that the Welsh Government, ‘will agree to these recommendations and the people of Wales can refocus all their energies on respecting the Fire Break’.
The recommendations come in response to confused and confusing messaging from the Welsh Government, which allowed its public health message to be drowned out over the weekend by rows over whether toasters, Lee Childs novels, and size 16 jeans were essential items for customers. The confusion was not helped by a mistaken tweet by supermarket giant Tesco which claimed women’s period products were not essential items when they are and always have been.
The WRC, CBI Wales and ACS believe their recommendations will fulfil retail’s role in tackling the spread of the virus while allowing for discretion to be used on an individual basis – as recommended by Health Minister Vaughan Gething in a tense press conference yesterday, http://pembrokeshire-herald.com/61929/welsh-health-minister-defends-retail-restrictions/.
The business bodies recommend:
- To limit the spread of the virus and allow for individual discretion, retailers will prominently display Welsh Government approved signage in front of known non-essential items and in communal areas. The signage will make clear the government’s regulation and the need to abide by it.
- This message will be reinforced through in-store announcements and social media messaging. Advising customers to put off non-essential purchases
- We recommend the individual customer is trusted to make their own decision as to whether a product is non-essential or not, taking into account the notices displayed throughout the store and their immediate needs
- If the customer goes ahead with the purchase of the item the final liability ought to rest with the customer
- Retailers will remove special in-store promotional displays of non-essential items in order to minimise browsing and avoid triggering a non-essential purchase.
- These recommendations would mean non-essential items are not removed from shelves – or cordoned off in stores – but large notices are placed in front of the products and in communal spaces informing customers of the Welsh Government’s regulations and the Welsh public are trusted to make the right decision.
They also say they ‘look forward to engaging with Welsh Government again this morning and we hope consensus can be reached’.
Llanelli Christmas Carnival goes online
Preparations are underway to host the first ever virtual Llanelli Christmas Carnival.
The carnival will go digital for the first time in its 42-year history due to the Covid-19 pandemic and in line with current Welsh Government guidance and increasing concerns about the spread of coronavirus linked to large gatherings.
Whilst there won’t be the usual street parade, people will be able to get into the festive spirit from the comfort of their own home.
The online celebration will be hosted as an event on Discover Carmarthenshire’s Facebook page on Friday, November 13.
Over the years, thousands of people have been involved in the Llanelli Christmas Carnival – either dressing up to enter a float in the parade, volunteering, or simply enjoying the atmosphere with generations of their families.
They can still get involved this year by sharing photos and video to help people celebrate good memories and help others reminisce about carnivals gone by.
There will be a broadcast of music from talented local performers who would usually sing from the main stage, and people will still be able to countdown to the switch-on of the town’s Christmas lights.
The largest Christmas carnival in Wales, Llanelli’s festive celebrations are a joint effort by Carmarthenshire County Council, Llanelli Town Council, Llanelli Rural Council and Llanelli Round Table.
Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, Carmarthenshire County Council’s Executive Board Member for Culture, Sport and Tourism, said: “It’s very unfortunate that we can’t hold Llanelli Christmas Carnival this year, but we’re determined to keep the spirit of the carnival alive. Let’s come together and celebrate one of the biggest events in Wales from the comfort of our homes – celebrate with generations of memories and look forward to a bigger and better carnival next year.”
Free Community Crime Prevention Kits to be distributed in Llanelli area
OVER the coming weeks, residents from both the Ty Isha and Glanymor areas in Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, will receive free crime prevention kits that will aim to deter offenders and make both communities safer.
The prevention kits have been purchased through funding that was secured from the Home Office’s Safer Street Fund by Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn.
The funding of £195,673 that was secured by Mr Llywelyn will go towards measures proven to cut crime, and will include employing two Community Wardens; purchase of SelectaDNA kits, Community crime prevention activity support, Environmental improvements and Community Crime Prevention kits.
SelectaDNA kits and Bike register kits are two of the Community Prevention kits that will be distributed to residents within the local communities over coming weeks.
The SelectaDNA kits are property marking kits that include a unique formula of DNA, UV tracer and microdots, which people can use to mark their valuable household items, so that if stolen, police are able to trace them.
Similarly, the bike register kits include stickers, frame markings and microdots to uniquely identify a bike. Users can add descriptions and photos to ensure that in the event of a theft, their bicycle can be easily identified and returned by Police through the BikeRegister Scheme.
Dafydd Llywelyn, Police and Crime Commissioner for Dyfed-Powys said, “I am delighted that both these crime prevention kits have been purchased through the Safer Streets funding that I secured earlier this year. Hopefully, as they are distributed over the coming weeks, we will see that they will have a positive impact within the area. Criminals know that DNA is the police’s most powerful weapon in convicting criminals therefore the DNA fear-factor is highly understood and acts as a huge deterrent.
“I have invested significantly in the area over recent years with community grants I made available in addition to the new CCTV system that is in place across the town. These new crime prevention kits that have been purchased through the new additional Safer Streets funding will further build upon my work over recent years and I hope the residents will feel a positive difference in their communities.
Both Ty Isha and Glanymor areas are considered to be two of the most deprived areas in Carmarthenshire according to the Welsh Government’s Index of Multiple Deprivation. The funding secured will focus on tackling all acquisitive crime such as burglary, vehicle theft and robbery within the identified areas.
PCC Llywelyn added, “Ensuring the security and safety of residents is a priority of mine – everyone deserves to live safely, and free from harm. Acquisitive offences are the crimes that the public are most likely to encounter, and they are estimated to cost society billions of pounds every year. There is strong evidence that these crimes can be prevented by tactics that either remove opportunities to commit crime or act as a deterrent by increasing the chances of an offender being caught. I now look forward to continue working closely with all partners that have supported us with our bid, to tackle these crimes in both areas and to ensure that they become safer environments for community residents.”
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