Business leaders call for ‘modest’ council tax rise to cover lost revenue

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BUSINESS leaders have asked district bosses to scrap their biggest money spinner – car parking charges - and pay for it by increasing council tax.

The Association of East Devon Chambers of Commerce (AEDCC) believes the mooted move will attract more visitors, boost high street shopping and benefit the regional economy.

The Herald has learned the group, made up of seven chambers of commerce including Sidmouth’s, has approached the authority suggesting the idea could become a reality within five years.

In a proposal put to East Devon District Council (EDDC), the association said that free parking would provide the council with ‘an extremely visible and attractive marketing advantage’ over other destinations.

It added that the bulk of costs incurred by EDDC managing the car parks would be saved – and a ‘modest’ rise in council tax would be needed to recoup the lost revenue.

The association suggested that a small working group be set up to study the feasibility and look at the financial implications of achieving the objective being phased in by 2017/2018.

It wants free winter parking, from October to March, by 2014/15 culminating in free parking, with a two-hour limit, in all of EDDC’s managed parking spaces by 2017/18.

‘Worker permits’ spanning from 8am to 5pm for designated spaces could also be introduced, according to the proposal.

The matter was put to district representatives at a meeting on November 5.

According to minutes of the talks, seen by the Herald this week, council chiefs – who included the authority’s parking services manager and environment portfolio holder – felt it would be a ‘difficult political consideration’ that would likely breach council tax capping levels.

They also questioned the ‘fairness’ of non-drivers having to face the potential charge.

It was resolved that EDDC would examine the proposal in more detail and give its feedback to AEDCC.

Steven Kendall-Torry, chairman of Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce, said yesterday it would not be appropriate for him to comment on the issue as it was ‘early days’ for the proposal. “It’s an idea at the moment and no more than that,” he added.

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