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New parking policy proposals want to charge community budgets for shortfalls

Councillor Margaret Patterson believes they are holding a financial gun to the head of local area committees.
Councillor Margaret Patterson believes they are holding a financial gun to the head of local area committees.

A furious councillor claims proposals to set parking revenue targets could hold a “financial gun” to communities in the Highlands.

The Redesign Board – set up to improve the local authority’s performance – agreed proposals for a new parking policy last week in an attempt to create “a vision for car parking and a shift towards localism in the region.”

If accepted by the council, the recommendations would see a new rules drawn up for car parking processes in the local authority area.

However, one of the most contentious elements of the policy is for the council to set “revenue targets” which would involve both surpluses and deficits applied to the following year’s budget.

Now members of local area committees fear their wards could be out of pocket if parking charges fail to meet the targets.

Councillor Margaret Patterson said: “They are holding a financial gun to the head of local area committees. It is just ludicrous using a broad brush and not taking into consideration the type of town.”

Councillor Carolyn Wilson agreed, stating: “We can rehearse the arguments against parking charges but it will come out of local roads, grass cutting, budgets. This could cripple high streets.

“For places like Mallaig and Skye, it is a bonus because they have a traffic management problem and will make money from it. But I really struggle to see how Dingwall and Alness will meet the revenue targets.

“We have gone through the redesign process and the people who went to the board feel were not listened to, they were just going through the motions.

“If we are going to talk about localism, have they consulted local communities? No. Have they consulted community councils? No, certainly not through here in Alness.”

However, chairman of the Redesign Board, Councillor Bill Lobban, said: “During this year’s budget debate the full Highland Council took the democratic decision to introduce changes to car parking charges across the Highlands.

“Following on from that decision the Redesign Board approved by an overwhelming majority, with only one member registering his dissent, a recommendation to continue the council’s policy of localism by asking area committees to take decisions regarding the raising of income in their areas.”

He added: “It will then be for area committee members to justify the decisions they make to the local electorate. That is what localism is all about.”

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