Cllr Peter Argyle, Chair of Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee has responded to the comments from a local MSP regarding the changes to parking tariffs in the Council’s Pay & Display car parks.
Mr Argyle said: “Mr Stevenson is wrong on a number of points and seems not to have understood the changes that have been made. He also appears blissfully unaware that SNP councillors on the cross-party working group we established to look into ways of ending the considerable deficit in the car park budget supported the proposals that were put to ISC last year, although they then voted against them at the meeting.
“He claims the SNP put forward proposals to end the deficit while maintaining the free period but sadly these proposals would in fact have increased the deficit. We did not introduce the new tariffs for the fun of it but because it was the only way to end the deficit and maintain the attractiveness of our town centres, as agreed unanimously by the cross-party working group.
“I find it very worrying that the MSP seems willing to put people off visiting Peterhead town centre by appearing to suggest that it is expensive to park there.
“The facts are that since the free period was introduced around 80% of all transactions in Pay & Display spaces were for the free period. As 75% of all spaces are without any charge at all, this meant that a tiny minority of people using our car parks were paying for the cost of the entire operation. This was neither fair nor sustainable.
“Maintaining the free period while increasing all other tariffs would inevitably have meant more people opting for a ‘free’ ticket, leading to reduced income and higher deficit.
“The new tariff offers one hour’s parking for just 50p and up to two hours for £1.00. We opted to make tariffs lower than previously in order to encourage people to stay longer in our town centres. Nor have we extended Pay&Display.
“The new tariffs were introduced on 1st September. Our staff have reported very few issues and a general acceptance of the new tariffs. Usage of car parks has not dropped off; indeed there is evidence that many people are taking a £1 ticket, probably spending more time in our town centres. Income for the first week was well up to expectations.
“We have also installed contactless machines, in addition to cash and RingGo, to make it easier for people to pay for their parking.
“The Administration has already committed to a full review of the new tariffs after a year of operation. We are also looking into taking on management of on-street parking from Police Scotland, something businesses in Peterhead and elsewhere have urged us to do.
“I would encourage Mr Stevenson to work with us to make our town centres more attractive, rather than putting people off visiting Peterhead through unfounded negativity.”