Council chiefs in St Helens have been branded “short-sighted” after they scrapped a free parking scheme aimed at encouraging shoppers to the town centre.
Town centre car parking fees have also risen by 20 per cent as council chiefs look to make multi-million pound budget savings.
That’s all St Helens needs another nail in its coffinReporter reader Ruth Howorth
Town hall chiefs say the price hike - which will mean an average hour charge rising from 80p to £1 - is the first of its kind for six years.
But Reporter readers have reacted with a mixture of surprise and anger at the move, many insist will damage the town centre economy.
Carol Sumner posted: “Good way to attract people to the town! Make savings by cutting councillor’s wages and expenses. That’s me shopping in Widnes from now on.”
Andy Whitmore added: “What a great way to help the town centre! These people need voting out.”
And Ruth Howorth summed up the mood, writing: “That’s all St Helens needs another nail in its coffin. St Helens is struggling now people will just go elsewhere even more.”
The tariffs increased on May 1.
Free parking on Saturday and after 3pm on weekdays, introduced in a bid to increase footfall in the town centre, will also end.
A council spokesman said: “Across the board, most charges will go up by 20 per cent, with on average one hours’ parking increasing to £1 from 80 pence, and two hours to £1.50 from £1.20, on Mondays to Fridays.
“However, concessions will be in place for Saturdays with parking in all council run car parks capped at 50 pence for up to two hours and £1 for over two hours.
“Since 2011 St Helens Council has frozen parking charges and offered concessions such as free parking on Saturdays and free after 3pm, however in light of the need to make savings this year of £7.4 million and the requirement to protect vital services such as child and adult social care, this can no longer be the case.”
Paul Sanderson, St Helens Council’s strategic director for environmental and trading standards, said: “With the unprecedented level of savings to be made and the need to protect essential services, together with the raising costs to maintain the car parks, we have little choice but to increase parking charges in the town centre.
“This is the first increase in charges since 2011 and we will still maintain discounted parking in the town on Saturdays with the charge of 50 pence for up to two hours.
“Even with the increase, parking in St Helens town centre is still cheaper than surrounding towns where charges apply.”
Parking permits for businesses and individuals have not increased.