An increase in parking charges for this year has been officially scrapped by Fife Council following a backlash from retailers and shoppers.
Earlier this summer, parking charges looked set to rise in line with a Council policy established in 2005 to increase income from charges by ‘inflation plus one per cent’.
Some car park signs were even altered before Council leader Alex Rowley ordered officials to stop.
This week, the executive committee agreed charges should not be increased “in light of the downturn in parking demand, the reduction in town centre economic vitality and the on-going global economic downturn”.
Dr Bob McLellan, head of transportation, said had the use of car parks continued at the same level as 2005 when the policy was introduced, charges would have been providing the Council with an income of £3.5m, but only around £2.5m was being brought in each year.
With the proposed increase in charges likely to generate only an additional £114,000, councillors believed it was not worth risking further damage to the economic viability of town centres.
Councillor Peter Grant, SNP group leader, said: “When the shortfall in car park income is measured in millions, £100,000 here or there is not going to make much difference. I think it is reasonable freezing car parking charges for this year.”
Kirkcaldy councillor Neil Crooks said many businesses were concerned that parking charges were putting people off visiting town centres.
He said: “In Kirkcaldy, at the town centre summit, parking was the biggest issue for the retail sector and people living in the town centre.”
While he agreed with the freeze on charges for this year, Councillor Tim Brett, Lib Dems group leader, questioned discrepancies in charges, and whether other towns and cities were suffering a drop in parking income.
He said: “We have an inconsistent approach to car parking charges in Fife. Some you pay, some you don’t.
“What’s the evidence that not putting these up is going to make any difference?When you go to Dundee or Edinburgh you pay significantly more. Have they suffered the way we have?”
Dr McLellan said he was aware that in Edinburgh, outwith the central zone, there was pressure for a reduction in charges to encourage economic activity.