Claims of ‘stealth taxes’ as North Devon Council looks to balance the books

A 10p an hour increase in parking charges is a ‘stealth tax’ in North Devon Council’s (NDC) budget, the opposition has claimed.

The council formally sets it budget tonight (Wednesday), with parking and other fees facing a review to balance the books.

Shadow leader, Councillor Brian Greenslade, says local people are under enough pressure without ‘heaping stealth taxes’ on to their already stretched finances.

The council is proposing to add 10p across the board, raising short stay car park charges from £1 to £1.10 and long stay from £1.60 a day to £1.70.

A report to the council’s March executive meeting says the parking review is needed to simplify the system.

It is proposed to make all areas chargeable 8am to 6pm and to drive long-term parking to long stay car parks, leaving the town centre free for shoppers and short-stay visits.

Mr Greenslade said: “For four years the Lib Dem and independent administration of NDC froze all hourly paid car parking charges, council tax and all fees and charges.

“Yet within a year of taking office, the Conservatives are proposing to increase fees and charges, car parking charges and council tax.

“My colleagues and I believe the council can do better than this and help relieve hard-pressed North Devon families.”

He also condemned plans to cut grants for Go North Devon (£20,000-17,000), North Devon Voluntary Service (£20,000-17,000), CAB (£50,000 to 42,500), and South Molton Swimming Pool (£24,000-20,400).

But council leader Des Brailey said: “Cllr Greenslade is correct his administration didn’t put charges up, which is why we are in a mess now. It is precisely because he took no action that he has caused a huge deficit.

“The cost of administering car parks in 2010/11 was £904,000. The cost for 2016/2017 is £1,101,000 – an increase of £197,000. If action had been taken earlier, we would not be in the situation we are now.

“Given a clear choice, no-one wants to put up car park charges. However, we must pay our way and this small increase will help to recover some of the lost revenue caused by the previous administration.

“I am sure people will be staggered at the cost, but to maintain and resurface and monitor the car parks is expensive.”

The Lib Dems are proposing amendments to the budget including cutting executive committee from 10 to eight members.