The leader of Cherwell District Council insists residents “do not need to worry” about the funding of services it provides despite a sizeable shortfall in revenue from car parks.
The authority this week confirmed it would dip into savings to plug a £458,000 gap between what it budgeted to make from car parking charges and current projections – almost a fifth of what was initially budgeted for.
Its monthly performance, risk and finance report, covering up to the end of August, notes that parking charges were increased by 25 per cent last year but that the increase in income is limited to between 16 and 18 per cent.
“A further 10 per cent rise in car park charges in July 2022 is not anticipated to increase income by a further 10 per cent,” it warned.
The council had budgeted to collect £2.327 million in car park revenue for the financial year up to the end of March 2023, with the projected shortfall cutting that by 19.7 per cent.
Policy contingency is a pot of money set aside to “meet affordable housing, commercial pressures, costs of decoupling from Oxfordshire County Council and inflation”.
The use of £458,000 more than doubles the amount earmarked, a total of £790,000 for the year so far, “to partially mitigate some of the inflationary costs that the council is experiencing and car parking income challenges”.
Councillor Adam Nell (Conservative, Adderbury, Bloxham and Bodicote), Cherwell’s portfolio holder for finance, said: “The real point is that people aren’t coming to park in our car parks in the way that they used to and our budget thought they would.”
Councillor Barry Wood (Conservative, Heyford & Fringfords), leader of the council, added: “We are particularly impacted by the fact that not as many people are using car parks as they used to.
“I think there is this tail or lag from Covid where people got used to – and I don’t have an evidence base for this – home delivery, Amazon, and that way of life caught on. Fewer people go to car parks in order to go shopping, basically.
“The important message I would give to residents in our district is that these things are being managed; that is the purpose of these reports, to enable us to manage the finances of this district properly, effectively and efficiently, as we have always done.
“We will continue to do that, and you, the users of our services, do not need to worry. We are not going to change the way we look after people and provide the services they expect, but we will manage our finances properly and effectively.”