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.
Those eligible for the Spring Covid-19 booster should get jabbed by end of June
ALL those eligible for the Spring Covid-19 booster are being urged to take up their offer of the vaccine before the end of next month.
A deadline of 30 June has been introduced to ensure all those eligible for the spring booster will have a long-enough interval between this and the autumn 2022 booster, if they are also eligible.
An announcement by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) about which groups will be eligible for the autumn booster is due to be published shortly.
The JCVI has advised that people over-75, older care home residents and all those aged 12 years and over who are immunosuppressed are eligible for the spring booster.
Those who are 75 on or before 30 June, can get their booster at any point up to the deadline.
Health Minister Eluned Morgan said: “It is important we continue our very high take up levels of the vaccine to help protect us against the risk of serious illness from Covid-19. I would urge everyone who is offered a spring booster vaccination takes up the invitation.”
If someone eligible for a spring booster has had a Covid infection recently, they will need to wait 28 days from the date they tested positive before they can be vaccinated. They will still be able to get vaccinated after 30 June as part of this campaign if they have to postpone their appointment.
All those eligible for spring boosters will be invited by their health board or GP.
It is not too late for anyone who needs a primary dose (first, second or third) to be vaccinated.
Please check for local arrangements.
Young people in Wales being failed when moving from child to adult mental health services
MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES are failing young people when they move from child to adult services, says a mental health charity.
Mind Cymru is calling for Welsh Government to make urgent changes to improve the system.
Nia Evans, Children and Young People Manager at Mind Cymru, said: “Young people have told us that their needs, thoughts, and feelings about moving to adult services are often unheard, or ignored.
“Welsh Government must support Local Health Boards to make sure this doesn’t happen, change the way services are run and make sure our young people are being heard and properly cared for.”
Mind Cymru has published a report, in ate the result of interviews with young people about their experiences of moving from Specialist Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services – (SCAMHS) to AMHS.
They highlighted five key areas where services are failing young people:
– Poor information offered to young people, particularly on their rights
– Inconsistent use and follow through of care and treatment plans
– High thresholds for SCAMHS and AMHS referrals to be accepted
– Feeling abandoned / cut off from SCAMHS
– Age still dominates decision making process for moving from SCAMHS to AMHS
Nia Evans said: “Any one of these issues could make the process of moving from children’s services to adult services difficult for our young people. But often, more than one is happening at any one time.”
“Our young people have a right to care and support from a mental health system that has been put in place to help them recover. Action must be taken immediately to make sure support systems are robust and doing the job they were designed to do.”
Mind Cymru is asking people to email their Member of the Senedd (MS) and amplify the voices of these young people whose experiences are often unheard, and use the #SortTheSwitch hashtag on social media.
The full report is available here, including what a good move from SCAMHS to AMHS would look like for young people, and where the current system could improve.
Average UK price of diesel hits record of more than £1.80 a litre
LESS than two months after Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a 5p a litre cut on the average price of fuel – diesel prices have reached a record high price of 180.29p a litre.
The previous high of 179.90p was recorded on March 23rd 2022 – the day of the Spring Statement from Sunak.
In recent weeks, the UK government has tried to move away from its reliance on importing Russian oil, following President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Worryingly for drivers of petrol cars, the price per litre is fast approaching the record levels of 167.3p per litre set on March 22nd.
This latest price rise adds another challenge to UK households, as the cost of living crisis continues to impact families across the country.
RAC fuel spokesperson Simon Williams said: “Sadly, despite the Chancellor’s 5p a litre duty cut the average price of a litre of diesel has hit a new record high at 180.29p.”
“Efforts to move away from importing Russian diesel have led to a tightening of supply and pushed up the price retailers pay for diesel.”
“While the wholesale price has eased in the last few days this is likely to be temporary, especially if the EU agrees to ban imports of Russian oil.”
“Unfortunately, drivers with diesel vehicles need to brace themselves for yet more pain at the pumps. Had Mr Sunak reduced VAT to 15% as we call on him to do instead of cutting duty by 5p, drivers of diesel vehicles would be around 2p a litre better off, or £1 for every full tank.”
“As it is, drivers are still paying 27p VAT on petrol and 29p on diesel, which is just the same as before the Spring Statement.”
“The average price of petrol is also on the rise having gone up nearly 3p a litre since the start of the month to 166.65p which means it’s less than a penny away from the all-time high of 167.30p set on 22 March.”
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