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Transport chief says free parking is being 'abused'

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: November 21, 2012

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RETAILERS and residents in Pontardawe are abusing parking spaces in Pontardawe, an AM has been told.

Shadow Transport Minister Bryron Davies said the claim came after he wrote to Neath Port Talbot Council voicing opposition to plans to start charging drivers for parking in the town.

The authority withdrew proposals to introduce the charges to the Swansea Valley town a year ago, while regeneration work was under way.

But new proposals for their introduction have now been included in the authority's Forward Financial Plan, which outlines how the authority will manage its finances between 2013 and 2018. If the plan is approved by councillors, the proposed parking charges could then be introduced.

Charges are opposed by traders in the town, who fear it will kill off passing trade, and a 3,500 name petition against their introduction has been drawn up in just a few weeks.

Earlier this month Plaid leader Leanne Wood visited the town to voice opposition the charges, describing them as "the wrong move at the wrong time".

AM Byron Davies has now written to Neath Port Talbot Council, calling them to think again about the charges.

And he says in a reply to his letter, the authority's head of engineering and transport, David Griffiths said free parking in Pontardawe was deemed no longer sustainable from both a "maintenance and equality perspective."

And Mr Griffiths added: "Sadly, these [car parks] are all too often abused by the local retailers and residents of the town themselves, preventing turn-over of spaces and parking for potential visitors and shoppers alike."

Mr Davies said: "It would be foolish, in my view, to clobber shoppers supporting small businesses in town like Pontardawe with parking charges when they can go to any number of out of town sites and park for free.

"What is clear that our high streets are in crisis.

"A national report this week has found that Wales is suffering more than many other parts of the UK.

"I urge Neath Port Talbot to be bold and back traders in this town.

"There may be fewer empty shops there now but that could change drastically if footfall drops as a result of parking charges being introduced,"

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  • AndyJenkins84  |  November 21 2012, 10:38PM

    Cabinet members do not get paid £30,000 on top of their basic allowance. Currently, the basic allowance is at £13,089 and the special responsibility allowance given to cabinet members is about £17,000 for regular cabinet members, and around £19,000 for the Leader and Deputy Leader. This brings their total pay to around £30,000. Committee Chairs and the Leader of the Opposition has a special responsibility allowance of around £9,000...so that brings their total to around £22,000. That said, I think streamlining the cabinet is an interesting idea worth exploring. Certain portfolio's can either be merged, or at the least given a junior position (and a couple of thousand pound less in allowance) I think that looking into reducing costs in council run buildings (through energy efficiency, alternative energy production i.e. solar panels and through making better use of office space and therefore reducing the number of council buildings) is another great area to look at. Also, looking at the pay of those at the top - the chief exec and directors - could be an area where savings can be made. A better commercial strategy whereby the Council looks at its profit-making activities and find ways for them to be more cost effective or more profitable would be good. Any cafeteria in council buildings not open to the public could be closed, so that council workers can either bring their own food, use cafe's in the buildings that are also open to the public or venture out and support local businesses more should also be explored.

  • missbuffay  |  November 21 2012, 9:49PM

    Poor Jiffy, I live in Neath so never use any of the carparks. I do, however, walk through the flat pay & display carpark everyday on my way to work. Hence I see lots of cars getting knocked by flying stones and often have to dodge the lagoon sized puddles. And as I work in a shop in the town centre, I am fully aware that they pay business rates. But thank you for your concern.

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  • Andrew_N  |  November 21 2012, 7:34PM

    Andy you ask how we can save money. Well the introduction of charges to Pontardawe may, (and it's a huge may as they don't know how big an impact it will be,) raise 11,000. Of course it could result in loss of several jobs the closing of several businesses and the loss of council tax and rates. If NPTCC decided to get rid of the NPC1 mayors' car that will save quite a bit in running costs and depreciation. There is also a huge saving available by getting rid of a number of Cabinet Members each receiving around 30,000 a year on top of their existing allowances. Ok it will not save 21 million but it will save more than the introduction of charges to Pontardawe will raise.

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  • Jiffy  |  November 21 2012, 7:31PM

    Poor missbuffay has fallen into the old trap of "If I pay, why don't they" - instead of questioning why she has to pay to park in Neath, when she knows the carpark isn't maintained at all. It has obviously escaped her notice that the shops in Neath & Pontardawe pay rates. Rates which should go towards keeping carparks up and running for free - not to pay some berk to collect parking fines around their shops, from residents (more ratepayers) who are not willing to pay pounds to park for minutes whilst they do a few minutes shopping.

  • missbuffay  |  November 21 2012, 6:32PM

    While I agree that the powers that be are looking to save money without losing any themselves I do feel it's unfair if people that shop in Neath & Port Talbot have to pay for parking why shouldn't people that shop in Pontardawe? It costs money to maintain carparks in Pontardawe just as it does in Neath or Port Talbot. Having said that, the state of the pay & display carpark next to Neath Civic is appalling. The stones where the parking is are horrendous to drive over & fly back up at the car - however slow you drive - and when it rains there are sections that are like mini lagoons! Councillors may not be aware of that as they get to park in the Civic's own carpark - does anyone know if they have to pay to park in there?

  • Jiffy  |  November 21 2012, 5:51PM

    Yet again, the elected councillors of Neath Port Talbot Council are keeping quiet and apparently allowing one of their officers to make decisions which affect Pontardawe residents and businesses. Over the last 20 years, Pontardawe has become a complete mess. Whilst the council have thrown money at traffic calming, fancy pavements and the like, many of the shops have shut, because shoppers have been driven away by the loss of parking. Does David Griffiths have free parking at work? I'm sure he's on a very good salary but if he was going to be charged £50 a week, we'd soon be hearing him claiming poverty.

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  • AndyJenkins84  |  November 21 2012, 4:24PM

    You're right, there are too many in it for the money...and that's true of all local authorities. It's not just the councillors, there are people in higher management positions who are seeing their pay remain safe while the lowest paid are asked to make sacrifices in pay and conditions. There are also those out there who believe that raising council tax is always the answer, and don't realise that people are struggling enough as it is!

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  • maxmin  |  November 21 2012, 3:11PM

    Andy, it sounds like you have some councillors with a social conscience, In Carmarthen they seem to be stuffing as much into their pockets as they can. A few years ago the taxi drivers asked for a rise of 50p per mile, the first rise they had received for more than five years. It was refused by a committee whose ten members between them had pocketed just under a quarter of a million in one year. Some enterprising chap printed out the list of the members with what they were getting and posted it all over town together with a note that they had turned down a request for such a small sum. The head of the committee threatened legal action but quickly backed down when he was invited to proceed with it.

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  • AndyJenkins84  |  November 21 2012, 2:57PM

    Councillors allowances have been cut by a few hundred pound in recent years, from £13,356 to 13,089. Special responsibility allowance (for members of the cabinet and chairs of committees) has also been cut in recent years. So they've gone beyond what you suggested.

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  • maxmin  |  November 21 2012, 2:31PM

    Well the first idea would be for all councillors to stop taking automatic annual pay rises.

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