Parking charges are to be brought back across Wirral from Monday 1 February.
On-street parking charges as well as those at council car parks and the country parks were suspended at the start of the COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020.
The charges remained suspended to help local businesses as they came out of lockdown last summer and this continued into the autumn and winter.
However, the cost of suspending parking charges is estimated to be in the region of £60,000 to £150,000 per month – income the council was expecting to achieve which had been built into the 2020-2021 budget when it was set last year.
Now as the council moves to set its budget for 2021-22 councillors on Wirral’s Policy and Resources Committee voted to bring the charges back. As parking charges resume from next week, machines will be cleaned regularly and residents are reminded that cashless payments are available.
A budget gap of around £40 million was reported for financial year 2021/22 and the council is liaising with government on exceptional financial support that may be available to offset its pressures, largely stemming from COVID-19, which are estimated to be around £25.5 million. However, this still leaves £16.5 million that the council will have to find to offset its general budget pressures in 2021/22.
Because of the budget gap the council must find ways to cut costs and where possible raise additional income, including looking at options which, under any other circumstances would not be considered, to ensure the council remains sustainable into the future.
Options being looked at range across the authority, from changes to bins collections, car parking charges and maintenance of parks and open spaces amongst many others. Major reductions in council “back office” functions are also being proposed.
Leader of the council, Cllr Janette Williamson, said, “Continuing to suspend the parking charges is unsustainable given our budget and no alternatives to how we would replace that loss of income have been presented by any political party opposing the reintroduction of car parking charges.
“The income the council loses by not charging for parking in its car parks and some on-street locations puts extra pressure on funding for other frontline services.”
The Policy and Resources Committee, which took place on Wednesday 20 January, was asked to look at bringing back the parking charges immediately at all locations.
It followed a review of parking charges across the borough and the decision has since undergone a call-in period when a review can be requested.