There has been an angry reaction to Labour councillors’ support for the county council’s proposed 88% price increase on visitor parking permits used within Cambridge’s 16 residents’ parking zones. The council expects to issue around 130,000 of these permits next year.
At the Cambridge Joint Area Committee yesterday (Tuesday 24th October), five Labour councillors spoke in support of the county council’s proposals to increase the charge from £1.60 to £3. The move was opposed by all four Liberal Democrat committee members.
A final decision on this and other parking charges will be taken by the county council’s Highways and Community Infrastructure Committee on 14th November.
Councillors from both parties supported plans to increase prices by around 20% for other types of on-street parking- Pay & Display and the permits used for residents’ own cars – to reflect inflation since prices last increased in 2011.
Dr Anthony Martinelli, a medical doctor and city centre resident, says the price increase may increase social isolation in vulnerable groups of residents.
“This is very disappointing. Many elderly and less mobile city residents rely on the car to make and receive visits involving family and friends”, he says. “Such visits, whether just for a chat or for help with shopping or appointments, are essential to people’s health and well-being. People designated as Carers can get special permits, but that scheme covers only a fraction of the visits we’re talking about here. With car parking at £3 per visit, even if that’s just for an hour each day, some people will find this unaffordable.
Cllr Nichola Harrison, county councillor for Market ward in the city centre, spoke on behalf of her residents at the committee meeting.
“This enormous price hike is a slap in the face for city residents and communities”, she says. “If 20% is the right level of increase for drivers using Pay and Display and the permits for residents’ own cars, how can an 88% increase be fair on residents who need permits for their visitors? Why would you target one group for this particularly harsh treatment, especially a group that’s contains many older and less well-off people?
“At the meeting Labour councillors said they see this price rise as supporting transport policy to reduce congestion in the city. I agree that’s an important goal, but penalising elderly residents won’t help with it – these people are mainly receiving and making visits outside peak hours, when the roads are quieter. What harm are they doing?
“I was hoping all councillors at the committee would stand up for the needs of ordinary residents and fight this proposal, but sadly that’s not the case.”