Greenwich Council has been accused of "literally driving people out of the area" after it was revealed that significantly fewer people are now using town centre car parks, following big increases to parking charges.
Last year the cost of parking in Greenwich town centre was almost doubled from £1.30 to £2.50 an hour. Parking permits and on-street parking charges were also dramatically increased in an attempt to make an extra £1.1 million a year.
However, last week officers told the Overview and Scrutiny Committee that the council had actually netted less than half this amount. They claimed that this was mostly due to delays in implementing new charges in Eltham and Old Dover Road.
However officers admitted that the number of tickets sold at off street car parks was also significantly down from previous years, suggesting that the increased charges are keeping people away.
The council intends to raise charges even further to £2.70 an hour next year.
Councillor Alex Wilson, recently elected as Deputy Leader of the Conservative group, told Greenwich.co.uk:
"If you increase charges to this extent then you are going to literally drive people out of the area. They will happily pay a pound extra in petrol to drive somewhere like Bluewater because they can park there for free. And one of the things about it is that you have to pay for a whole hour, so if you want to stay for an hour and 15 minutes then that's £5.00. That has to have an impact."
Wilson warned that the Council may end up actually losing revenue overall, when government plans to give local authorities 50% of business rates go through.
Officers said that they have not conducted any studies into the impact of the increases on local businesses. However, they insist that many shoppers may simply be using public transport instead.
Figures released to this website last year showed that the council had made only modest increases in revenue following the increases.
The figures released last week show that increased charges for off street parking raised the council just £71k extra last year, half of what they had expected.
The council believes that expected parking revenue could fall further once the huge new Tesco development is completed in Woolwich later this year.
The committee were also told that increases to parking permit costs may be causing more residents to pave over their front gardens. Officers warned that this could increase the risk of flooding in some areas.
Front garden dumping on the increase
More and more people are dumping large items like mattresses and sofas in their front gardens, following sharp increases in collection charges.
Last year the council raised “special collection” charges from £4 to £7 per bulky item. Labour councillor Hayley Fletcher told the Overview and Scrutiny Committee:
"I've noticed an increase not only in fly tipping but also in the number of residents who are leaving these items in their front gardens and not having them collected and some parts of my ward it is quite an eyesore. And maybe what we could go away and consider is the environmental impact, because you're talking about an increased number of people who are all going to community sites rather than one van going around and collecting these items."
Committee chairman Mick Hayes suggested that the increased charges may have been a mistake:
"Big concerns were raised at the time that whatever we raised from extra charges might be offset in other ways by additional fly tipping but we were in a position where we had to make x amount of savings and really what's happened is for members need to bare in mind when we consider increasing charges in future."