Councillor calls for new parking charges to be suspended until financial ramifications of scrapping HS2 are known
Cheshire East should suspend proposed parking and green bin charges until it knows how it will be financially compensated for the scrapping of HS2, a councillor said.
Cllr Reg Kain (Lib Dem) said if the council had committed £11m to HS2, of which £8m had already been spent, then the additional £3m would be returned to the council budget.
“In my opinion… the council at this moment in time has no true understanding of its budget or deficit until compensation claims have been presented to central government over this matter,” Cllr Kain told the meeting of the full council on Wednesday.
“Will the council now suspend discriminatory and oppressive green bin and car parking charges to the hard working communities across the borough?”
The councillor who represents Alsager, where parking is currently free, said the introduction of charges in the market towns ‘will have a devastating economic effect on their businesses as they do not have the retail offer or facilities such as permanently staffed police stations, ambulance stations or fire stations found in larger towns where charges are currently in force’.
“In the opinion of myself and others, including those who have taken to the streets in places such as Sandbach to protest these charges, they should be halted until an accurate assessment of the council’s projected finances can be ascertained,” he said.
Cllr Craig Browne (Alderley Edge, Ind), chair of the highways and transport committee, told the meeting at Macclesfield: “This is simply not the time to stand still, close our eyes and hope for the best.
“Cllr Kain describes the proposals to introduce charging to areas where parking is currently free as ‘discriminatory’.
“I think those parts of the borough that have had to pay for many years whilst others have had a free lunch at their expense would say it is the current charging regime that is deemed discriminatory.”
He added: “To suspend these proposals, particularly at a point when we are midway through a public consultation, would be irresponsible as well as incredibly confusing both to residents and businesses.”
Cheshire East leader Sam Corcoran (Sandbach, Lab) said the council was under tremendous financial pressure because of inflation, high interest rates, the cost of living crisis and the increasing demand on services.
“The announcement about HS2 has certainly not helped and therefore it would seem perverse to stop taking the actions that we know are necessary just because we don’t know what further problems this government is going to cause,” said the council leader.
He said Cheshire East Council will be arguing ‘very strongly’ for compensation for all the costs it has incurred in preparing for HS2 coming to Crewe.
He added: “This administration is taking the difficult decisions we know are necessary and sadly, given that the national economy has been crashed and the ongoing uncertainty around government decisions, I fear we may need to do even more to achieve a balanced budget next year.”