Is Royal Borough planning to privatise parking?

Reporter:

James Harrison

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Fears of spiralling parking costs that could drive shoppers away have been voiced after it emerged the Royal Borough is investigating having private contractors run its car parks.

Details are yet to emerge but it has been confirmed ‘options’ for the future of parking in the borough – including privatisation – are being looked at. Proposals are expected to be presented ‘by the end of the year’.

On Monday, the Transport and Environment Overview and Scrutiny Panel is to review a raft of cuts as the council looks to make £5.6m of savings in 2017/18.

They include the potential for £100,000 savings through a ‘Contractual Joint Venture with commercial providers’ for parking provision.

When quizzed on exactly what this meant, a spokesman responded: “An option we are looking at would be to work with a commercial partner to provide parking provision in the borough with the aim of reducing costs and potentially enhancing services. We are in the very early stages of considering this option in order to determine whether this would be viable.”

The apparent attempt to offload responsibility for parking comes roughly a year after the Advertiser exposed glaring problems with the Nicholsons Centre Car Park payment system.

A new system was later installed at a cost of £240,000 which also quickly ran into problems.

These now seem to have been resolved, although in the past months the car park has been forced to close several times due to electrical problems which had again forced it to close yesterday (Wednesday).

And last month Bill Higgins, chairman of the firm behind the Landing project in Maidenhead town centre, claimed parking issues had the potential to ‘deter investors’ in the town centre regeneration.

Cllr Carwyn Cox, cabinet member for environmental services and parking, denied the council was trying to off-load responsibility, saying: “We always try and do the best we can.

“Sometimes we don’t hit our own high standards, but we always look at the best options for residents. There’s no hint of secrecy about this.

“No formal decisions have been made at this stage.”

But the news has sparked fears a private operator would want to increase parking charges to drive up profits rather than set prices to draw shoppers into town.

Bob Dulson, chairman of Maidenhead Civic Society, said: “Easy access and reasonable parking are distinct advantages Maidenhead has over its competitors.

“We have at least to maintain those for the future but also, crucially, in the medium term during the disturbance that regeneration will inevitably bring.

“So a comprehensive access, movement and parking strategy is an urgent requirement and it’s right that the borough explores all the options.

“But it is to be hoped what emerges accords with  the community’s desire for an attractive and enhancing solution, not just a financial imperative.”

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  • Pursuer

    18:06, 15 September 2016

    If privatisation continues at this rate, what will the Councillors have to do. If they have nothing to discuss, consider & decide they will make themselves redundant, and lose the allowances they vote themselves

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  • TwoBob

    18:06, 15 September 2016

    Of course the council are looking to privatise parking along with the rest of the Directorate they belong to....a family friend has told me that staff in parking have already been told they are to Tupe over to any new parking provider...if they don't its the dole queue Maybe the press should start digging and find out which council departments are being lined up to be out sourced by 1st April....which is not far away so the hierarchy must have a damn good idea.....start digging rather than relying on stories dropping into your lap......its no good digging once the council announce all the so called "efficiency savings" and the normal horse wash "Protecting front line services"

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  • Pursuer

    11:11, 15 September 2016

    There is precious little reason to visit the town centre anyway unless you want o buy a coffee, a sandwich, have a hair do or visit one of the only growing number of retailers- charity shops. Of course you might, occasionally, need to visit your bank or the Post Office (hidden in WH Smith), but what Maidenhead really needs if it is to attract shoppers is some decent multiple stores, but with short stay parking almost impossible, high rents & rates why would such store come to Maidenhead town centre? The convenient Grove Road open air car park is,apparently, to be closed to provide parking for, the allegedly reduced number, of Borough officials, who might reasonably be expected to walk or use public transport, thus reducing what easily accessible space there is. Rest assured, privatisation means higher prices and increased vigilance from parking enforcement.

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