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"Anti-car" accusation as councillors collide over Lancaster and Morecambe parking fees

Councillors have butted heads in a heated exchange over parking fees in the Lancaster and Morecambe district.

Councillor Stuart Morris accused rival councillors of being "totally anti-car" as he slammed their policy on charges for using Lancaster City Council car parks.

Councillor Morris, a Conservative, was speaking at Wednesday's budget meeting at Morecambe Town Hall.

His comments came after Councillor Anne Whitehead, cabinet member for finance and a Labour councillor, said this year's budget cuts were necessary to balance the books after "years of government under-funding".

Related Story: INTERVIEWS: Full breakdown of "painful" Lancaster City Council budget plans revealed - Beyond Radio

"You seem to blame the government in almost everything," said Councillor Morris (pictured below).

"The car parking charges was one pretty big mistake that you made.

"Was it the government's fault that the projected half a million pounds of revenue was not collected and a further half million pounds of costs were incurred, meaning the loss of a million pounds in the overall revenue budget?"

Councillor Whitehead replied: "Yes I do blame the government. The government expects us to balance our budget with income which is constrained. We don't have much flexibility with fees and charges. We don't have much opportunity to increase income."

Councillor Morris replied: "Not really a good enough response as far as I'm concerned. There are many councils across the country that actually don't charge for car parking at weekends in particular, which means people come into towns and spend money in shops and outlets. So you're defeating the object.

"So you should really look into how we are structuring our parking across the whole area to try to attract people into Morecambe, rather than detract them. That's exactly what you did when you put the charges up and it cost us a fortune to reverse the mistakes you'd made. You're totally anti-car."

Councillor Gina Dowding, a Green councillor and cabinet member, said: "I don't know where you've got the figure a million from. That's incorrect.

"The car parking increase was based on pre-Covid levels. 

"There is plenty of evidence that when you've got a restricted area like Lancaster when it comes to on-street parking, you've got to charge in order to control the way the traffic is managed. There is no evidence that visitor numbers have decreased.

"On one level you're arguing that, there is actually half a million you'd like to have seen increase from car parking charges, but you're actually saying you don't want any charges! As a cabinet I think we've worked really well to minimise the impact on frontline services.

"There are no increases this year on car parking charges. I think if you're going to make accusations, you need to find correct information before you make them, and your information is wrong."

The council introduced controversial new car parking fees in April 2022.

After a public backlash, they reinstated a two-hour tariff in council car parks in Lancaster, that had previously been scrapped.

Parking charges in city council-run car parks have been frozen for 2023/4, so no further changes are expected for the next financial year.

Related Stories: April 11 date for Lancaster and Morecambe car parking fees shake-up - Beyond Radio

Councillor defends Lancaster and Morecambe car parking fee shake-up as petition reaches 1,800 signatures - Beyond Radio

Conservatives vote for budget by mistake as chaos ensues at Morecambe Town Hall - Beyond Radio

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