Council counts the cost of free parking scheme

Aileen Hahesy

Aileen Hahesy

The 20 minutes free parking scheme in Carrick-on-Suir town centre is being blamed by Town Council management as the main reason why its revenue from parking charges and fines plummeted by E65,000 last year.

Carrick-on-Suir Town Clerk Michael O’Brien told councillors there was a variety of reasons for the sharp fall in parking revenue including the fact that less people were visiting the town due to the recession. But the 20 minutes free parking scheme was the single biggest cause of the decline.

Mr O’Brien made his comments at the Town Council’s September meeting when councillors were presented with the local authority’s annual financial statement for 2011.

The 20 minutes free parking scheme was first introduced by the Council in 2009 for Main Street following lobbying by town centre businesses. It currently operates on Main Street, Sean Kelly Square, Kickham Street and New Street.

Fine Gael Cllr Margaret Croke suggested at the Council meeting that the decline in parking revenue could be seen as a positive as it indicated people weren’t breaking the parking laws as much as in the past.

And Independent Cllr Pierce O’Loughlin argued that Carrick-on-Suir had been hit more than other areas by the recession and there was a lot of people unemployed in the town, who just didn’t have money to spend.

Mr O’Brien said he accepted that the economic downturn was responsible for an element of the revenue fall but the serious decline coincided with the introduction of the 20 minutes free parking scheme. “There is a cost to it, it’s not cost neutral,” he said.

He pointed out that the Town Council had a challenging year ahead as they faced into preparing the budget for next year.

Mr O’Brien agreed to include the annual financial statement on the agenda of next month’s Town Council meeting after Cllr Kieran Bourke said councillors needed more time to examine the docement as they had only received it on the day of the meeting.