OPPOSITION leaders have welcomed changes to unpopular hikes in parking charges in Swansea, with one saying common sense had prevailed.
Swansea Labour decided to increase charges at council-run car parks at a cabinet meeting in January after nine years of no rises.
The new charges came into effect this week, and although Swansea residents can get a discount via an app, there has been a backlash.
One person described on social media how he was charged £30 for parking at the new car park by Swansea Arena after an eight-hour shift. “Words fail me,” he said. “Everyone really needs to be made aware that it may not just be a little hike like I thought and that it in fact may cost you a fortnight’s fuel instead.”
The increase in charges vary from car park to car park but the council announced on April 18 that it had had a partial rethink, and announced new city centre offers.
Liberal Democrat opposition leader, Cllr Chris Holley, who put forward an unsuccessful amendment to freeze city centre parking charges when the 2023-24 budget was approved in March, said he welcomed the administration’s change of heart.
“If they had listened to us and gone with our amendment we wouldn’t be in this situation,” said Cllr Holley. “It’s ridiculous – we want to encourage people to go to the city centre.”
Asked if it was only fair for charges to rise after nine flat years, especially when council budgets were under severe pressure, he said: “No, I don’t accept that. They haven’t gone up since 2014 but that’s up to the ruling party. It’s their budget. If they had decided to put them up by 1% a year we wouldn’t have this situation.”
Swansea Conservatives leader, Cllr Lyndon Jones, said his party had called for parking charges for Swansea residents to be frozen. He said “people were horrified” by the scale of the increase in charges. “They simply could not afford it,” he said. “I think common sense has prevailed.”
Uplands Party leader, Cllr Peter May, welcomed Labour’s recent change of heart because the prices that were introduced for the arena car park were “on a par with the NCP car park in Covent Garden”.
Cllr May said: “This was not a good choice. It hit people in the pocket.”
Swansea Labour is behind several large-scale regeneration projects which aim to increase footfall and vitality in the city centre now that the retail landscape, as in every town and city, has changed.
The new parking offers unveiled on April 18 are:
– Up to 700 low-cost permits will be offered to city centre businesses meaning staff can park for the equivalent of just £1.35p per day.
– A return of the 1-2-3 offer where residents can park in the city centre for £1 an hour £2 for two hours or £3 for up to three hours when parking after 9am and leaving by 6pm.
– The eight-hour parking charge at the Quadrant and Copr Bay (arena) car parks is being scrapped which means the charge for up to 12 hours will be £16.50 for residents and £17 for non-residents.
The business permits will be offered immediately, while the charges for 1-2-3 will be introduced as quickly as the payment machines can be reconfigured.
Council leader Rob Stewart said: “We introduced new parking charges earlier this week which were the first increase since 2014, but at the same time we fully recognise the cost-of-living crisis is still impacting on families and businesses.
“We have heard the calls for us to continue our long-standing support and therefore we are bringing forward these offers to do just that.”