COUNCILLORS have tonight ordered a detailed report on the full impact proposed parking charges could have on businesses and the public across Wirral.
During a heated meeting of Wirral's business overview and scrutiny committee at Wallasey Town Hall, council officers outlined proposals to implement charges in high-streets right across the borough.
Subject to public consultation, they include plans to impose pay-and-display at country parks and New Brighton Fort Perch Rock.
More than 50 streets have been earmarked for charging (see full list at the end of this article).
Following more than an hour's debate this evening, councillors backed a notice of motion by Bromborough Labour councillor Warren Ward, who called for the impact report on the proposals.
It also emerged tonight that 15,000 people had signed petitions against the plans.
Cllr Ward told the Globe: "Wirral Borough Council has £132m worth of cuts to deliver as a direct result of central government cuts to our council.
"Councillors from right across the country are forced into positions like this.
"I have read the report in full and I am not satisfied that it contains enough details regarding the impact on businesses, traffic and the wider community."
Residents and traders gathered outside the town hall prior to the meeting in protest at against the plans.
The ruling Labour group says it needs to raise extra cash to top-up threadbare budgets following Government cuts.
But Tories warn the move will destroy the borough's outlying shopping areas by driving custom elsewhere.
A group of around 80 residents and traders gathered outside the town hall prior to the meeting.
When a member of the audience tried to address the committee, he was blocked by its chairman, Labour Pensby and Thingwall councillor Mike Sullivan, who said: "members of the public have got plenty of opportunity to make their views known”.
During the debate, a recommendation by Moreton West & Saughall councillor Chris Blakeley calling for cabinet to withdraw the proposal was rejected.
A recommendation from Eastham Liberal Democrat Dave Mitchell that the parking charge option to be dropped was also defeated during a vote.
Conservative councillor Chris Blakeley said: "Bringing in parking charges at all shopping centres and council car parks will do nothing to the enhance the shopping experience.
"Have you carried out an impact assessment on side streets and what will happen to them if parking charges are introduced?
"The council has made choices to spend on monthly newspaper against the wishes of the public for £250,000.
"The council leader is happy to risk £850,000 on a council newspaper and golf resort."
Addressing the Labour members of the committee, Conservative councillor for Hoylake and West Kirby, Gerry Ellis, said: "I think you have made a desperately serious error.
"There will be very very serious repercussions if parking charges are approved.
"It will kill shopping centres. The country parks proposal is horrendous and diabolical.
"It's absolutely essential that we forget this idea for charging to park in country parks.
"Let's tell cabinet to drop these ideas right away and we can all breathe again."
In response, Leasowe Labour councillor and scrutiny committee member Ron Abbey told Cllr Ellis: "These are proposals, they are not decisions.
"The committee will make recommendations that will go to cabinet for a decision.
"It's not in the hands of an individual at the moment.
"The problem lies not with this council, but with consistent cuts from the Government.
"We need to put the blame where it lies."
Reminding councillors of the funding crisis Cllr Mike Sullivan warned that services would go "completely or members of the public will be asked to pay" unless savings were found.
"I say this and I say this loud and clear, this council because of cuts by 2020 will cease to exist as we know it now.
"The council has been forced into a corner since 2010. This is not a political statement, this is a matter of fact.
"That's why we are discussing bringing in car parking charges, to fill the black hole.
"We are looking at this because if we don’t we are looking at losing 50, even 100 social workers."
The council plans to raise extra cash by:
- Increasing fees by 50p per hour in existing car parks.
- Charging for on-street parking in West Wirral.
- Introducing pay and display at Fort Perch Rock in New Brighton.
- Bringing in a new £4 a day parking charge for Wirral's country parks.
- Imposing charges at nine other locations across the borough.
Country Parks affected are:
- Arrowe Country Park
- Pensby and Thingwall
There are plans to start charging for parking where it is currently free in the following locations.
- South Parade
- Banks Road
- The Crescent
- Grange Road
The report said charges in this area will raise around £60,000 a year.
- Market Street
- Station Road
- Albert Road
- Charles Road car park
- Carr Lane car park
- Telegraph Road
- Pye Road
- The Mount
- May Road
- Milner Road
- Rocky Lane South car park
- Seaview Road
- Liscard Village
- Wallasey Road
- Mill Lane
- Liscard Road
- Manor Road car park
- Allport Lane
- Bromborough Village Road
- High Street
- Allport Lane car park
- Bromborough Road
- Church Road car park
- Thingwall Road
- Manor Road • Roslin Road car park
- Rake Lane
- Arrowe Park Road
- Hoylake Road
- Oakenholt Road
- Pasture Road
- Chadwick Street
- Barnston Lane
- Upton Road
- Holt Avenue car park
- Garden Lane car park
In a statement last week, the Labour group's transport chief Cllr Stuart Whittingham said: "The council has been absolutely clear that Wirral has to reduce its spending or raise its income by £45m next year and by £130m before 2020.
"These small increases in charging will go some way towards mitigating the impact of these cuts.
"We are consulting with residents on the proposals to change car parking tariffs.
"We are following the legal process by publicising traffic regulation orders in local newspapers, giving residents the opportunity to give us their views.
"All feedback we receive will be taken into account before any decisions are made.
"Any issues with proposals for car parking in New Brighton will also be reviewed as part of this process."
Among those in the audience was Darren May, who launched a petition against parking charges in New Brighton.
He told the Globe: "I was shocked to hear that the proposal had not given any thought to the impacts on local business, residents or visitors. All it mentioned was how much revenue the council will make from us.
"I was delighted when committee member, Cllr Blakeley, made a stand and put a motion forward to scrap this obsurd nonsense.
"But shock kicked in again when the motion was rejected by our very own New Brighton ward Councillor who was on the committee, Councillor Chris Spriggs.
"The packed room was filled with anger and anguish.
"The very people who were elected to represent us, voted against our represented wishes.
"There is still hope though as no final decision has been made.
"So it's time to bolster our voice and make it louder! Please keep signing and sharing the petition."