Oct 14 2013

Rayner’s Lane 20-minute Free Parking Trial: Recommendation? Dunno.

parking_carsGood to see the Council’s Corporate Director or Environment and Enterprise is proving to be a good investment. Perusing one of the papers for the forthcoming Harrow Council Cabinet Meeting later this week (more below) we see the first page has her recommendation on the 20-minute free parking trial in Rayner’s Lane, which, backed up with some five weeks of data both before, and after, the trial commenced, should have allowed her to come up with a decision on whether or not to recommend a borough-wide deployment.

What do we see:

1. Note the review of the Rayners Lane free parking trial as set out in the report

2. Consider the implications of on-street free parking borough wide, reviewing the options available and agree a preferred option:

a. Implement 20 minutes free parking in all on-street pay and display parking places borough wide.

b. Do not implement 20 minutes free parking in the borough and remove the Rayners Lane trial of 20 minutes free parking.

Reason: (For recommendation):  To ensure that a consistent parking charges policy is implemented.

So, 17 pages of analysis, and not a recommendation in sight. We wouldn’t be surprised if someone suggested that Leader Hall swung the metaphorical axe in the direction of Ms Bruce’s office, if that’s the best she can come up with.

You can read the entire 17 pages here, if you’re so inclined. Were you to do so (and you might be the only one in the Civic Centre come Thursday night who has…), you’d learn (and these are just the highlights):

  • There is a popular view that providing a free parking period will encourage trade for local businesses and improve the local economy. However, there is no conclusive evidence to support this.
  • Parking income reduced steadily week on week from the commencement of the trial. The reduction in income was approximately 45% at the end of the monitoring period. Applied borough wide this would equate to an estimated loss of parking income of approximately £541k.
  • The increase in tickets issued, however, would significantly increase the maintenance and servicing costs of the pay and display machines. The increased usage would result in more regular mechanical problems needing repairs and a larger number of tickets to be replaced. When applied borough wide this would equate to an additional maintenance cost of about £25k which is not currently factored into the financial assessments and therefore there is no budget allocation. An additional member of staff would also be required to oversee this considerable increase in activity. The cost of an additional technician would be £35k making the total additional funding required £60k.
  • Another consequence of the free parking scheme is that it will not be possible to achieve future possible savings by reducing the current stock of 220 pay and display machines. The introduction of cashless parking (pay by phone) was intended to provide an alternative means of payment and, subject to take up, to reduce ticket issue from pay and display machines. This would potentially have allowed up to 30% of machines to be decommissioned reducing the associated maintenance and servicing costs. However, free tickets can only be obtained from pay and display machines and with the projected increase in usage it would not be possible to reduce the number of machines.
  • A reduction in revenue of approximately £4300 over the 5 week period of the trial in Rayners Lane has been monitored so far. When considering that PCNs issued for ticket offences borough wide average about £730k annually this level of reduction scaled up would equate to approximately £310k per annum.
  • In total the 20 minutes free parking proposal [if deployed across the borough] would cost approximately £941k of which only £568k is budgeted for giving a shortfall of £373k.

So, in other words, to roll out 20-minutes free parking across the borough, would cost in the region of £1,000,000 per year in lost income – money which would have to be found elsewhere. So, your jam today will turn into cuts to services elsewhere tomorrow. What would have been interesting would be to see where the vehicles which parked were registered: are we offering non-Harrow residents free parking (which does, of course, benefit Harrow traders) at the expense of Harrow’s very own residents?

I’m not an expert, but I’d be guessing that this trial will be canned pretty soon in it’s current form, and not rolled out across the borough. Financially, from a layman’s point of view, it doesn’t seem to stack up. Why Ms Bruce couldn’t have said that, I don’t know.

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