Proposal to waive car parking fees for Derry motorists deferred for assessment of cost to ratepayer

A decision on whether or not to allow free parking at civic car parks until lockdown is over has been deferred until the Derry City & Strabane District Council February meeting.

UUP Alderman Darren Guy proposed the move at a meeting of the DC&SDC Business and Culture Committee on Tuesday.

But he agreed to wait until the financial implications of such a waiver on the council finances and local ratepayers were worked out before putting a formal proposal to the floor.

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At the meeting on Tuesday, Kevin O’Connor, Head of Business, explained that the Council now has responsibility for 30 off-street car-parks, only 50% of which are charged.

Mr. O’Connor, in a detailed report, advised that in 2019/2020 the total expenditure on car parks was £556,239; in 2018/2019 the expenditure was £490,881 and in 2017/2018 it was £497,939.

Despite these costs the local car parking operation is in the black as it continues to bring in enough revenue in charges to more than cover costs. COVID-19, however, has had an impact.

Mr. O’Connor reported: “Due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and lower footfall in the city and town centre the Council continues to experience substantial losses in income which will be experienced beyond this financial year.”

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In 2019/20 the revenue collected across the car parks was around £1.38m leaving an operating surplus of £825,000.

“This surplus forms part of Council’s overall revenue budget and is distributed across Council to provide services to the rate payer. Council relies on the revenue generated from car parking fees to cover the expenditure incurred to maintain and operate the car parks at zero cost to the ratepayer,” he stated.

Ald. Guy tabled a proposal to ‘permit free parking at all council owned car parks throughout the city and district up until the current lockdown measures are lifted in accordance with measures implemented during the previous spring lockdown, subject to impact appraisal.’ The proposal was seconded by Aontú’s Emmet Doyle.

The councillors agreed to defer a vote on the motion until the full council meeting at the end of the month when a fully costed appraisal of the proposed fee waiver will be prepared for councillors’ consideration.