Cherwell District Council estimates it will save £100,000 per year by handing over enforcement of its car parks to Oxfordshire County Council.
The district’s executive, the team of Conservative councillors in charge, has been advised by council officers to enter a five-year partnership with an option for a further five years to let the county take charge from the start of December 2022.
Cherwell’s council-run car parks are currently managed by a private company, Apcoa, but that deal is set to expire at the end of November.
The council considered three options – building its own in-house team, putting the services out to tender again or teaming up with the county.
Oxfordshire County Council took charge of the civil enforcement of on-street parking across three of the county’s districts, including Cherwell, in November 2021. The idea is that the same team of people will oversee compliance with the region’s car parks, leading to cost savings.
A report by Cherwell’s assistant director of environmental services Ed Potter read: “The insource option is probably undeliverable due to a lack of in-house expertise. Retendering the service is unlikely to deliver a significant reduction in costs.
“The preferred option is to enter into an agency arrangement with the county council. This option will deliver a good service, but at a lower cost than the current arrangements.
“With one set of enforcement officers covering both on-street and off-street parking, cost savings are expected to be significant.”
The estimate is that the new deal will cost £350,000 per year, down from the current £450,000 per year, with the caveat that it would “generate an in-year pressure which the service will need to look for options to mitigate”.
It is also hoped that the way the car parks operate can be improved with a particular focus on speeding up the payment process for users.
Mr Potter’s report added: “Increasingly the car parks, where feasible, are moving to pay on exit. Currently, there are two pay-on-exit car parks, but it is hoped that this will increase to four from 2023 .
“These car parks are popular with residents as they pay for the time parked, rather than estimating their stay before arrival. For enforcement purposes, pay-on-exit car parks require fewer patrols as pay and display tickets are not present, so do not need to be inspected so frequently.”
Cherwell’s executive will discuss and vote on the proposals when it meets on Monday. The deal includes the option for either the district or the county to pull out with 12 months’ notice.
The council’s contract with its current provider APCOA will expire in November. On 05 September, Cherwell’s executive is set to approve plans which build on existing relationships with the county council, which took over enforcement of on-street parking in November 2021.
The deal will streamline enforcement, save the council around £100,000 anually, and speed up card payments. Cherwell’s current contract with APCOA is worth around £450,000 a year, and the predicted annual spend under a deal with the county council is under £350,000.
“Drivers have benefitted from several improvements during the existing contract with APCOA. These include the introduction of pay-on-exit at two car parks and the addition of electric vehicle chargers at five of them, and this autumn, LED lighting will follow.
“Our commitment under a new arrangement with Oxfordshire County Council will be to speed up payment machines and increase pay on exit, which I know is popular with drivers. We will retain cash payments so that users have a choice of how to pay.
“Since it was introduced nearly a year ago, the arrangement for enforcement of on-street parking we have with the county council seems to have been a success.
“It makes sense that enforcement in our car parks should be carried out by the same team, and this will cost the taxpayer less money too. At the same time, we at Cherwell will retain a large degree of control over our car parks, setting the overall enforcement strategy and monitoring their performance.”
—Councillor Dan Sames, Portfolio Holder for Cleaner and Greener Communities