Sunday, 25 January 2015

Council Budget (5) - Fee increases all round!

I have already commented on the Rainbow Alliance’s proposals to raise car parking charges but this is not the only example of the Administration avoiding difficult decisions on economies by chasing increased income from fees and charges.

The reality is that in these difficult times, where residents, businesses and visitors continue to struggle to make ends meet, trying to over milk council resources in this way raises major concerns. Some of these proposals threaten some of the less well off in our community, risk undermining our reputation as a cultural, tourist and operational centre for the area and avoid the reality that if you increase fees and charges too high you risk creating user resistance which results in people not using facilities and actually reducing the income you generate. There are some areas, and I believe car parking may be one, where to freeze (which in real terms means reduce) or even reduce fees increases usage and resulting income.

I was surprised that with a Labour cabinet member for housing we should see such significant increases in council house rents (although council Leader Ron Woodley has argued in previous years for larger than the proposed rent increase).

Additionally we see Lib Dem Leader Graham Longley proposing increased charges for entry to the Pier, as well as increases to Bereavement Services charges, increases in hire costs of council facilities, general increases in council commercial rents, attempts to increase income from services to our schools, increased taxi licensing charges, rises in the cost of our businesses locating tables and chairs outside their premises, increased charges for bowling greens, and increasing leisure fees.

So whilst Ron Woodley does not seem to be delivering the promised reductions in “red tape” we are seeing increased demands on our council house tenants, visitors to the seafront, the bereaved, our schools, our taxi drivers, our businesses and those keen to keep fit and active.

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