Local Liberal Democrat councillors have identified that the true amount of profit expected to be made from the city's Residential Parking Zones (RPZs) will be close to a staggering three quarters of a million pounds this year.
It was recently reported in the media that Bristol's RPZs are expected to make a surplus of £125,000. This figure was taken from a report given by council officers at a meeting attended by councillors from all parties regarding the finances of a selection of RPZ areas. The report however neglected to mention the financial position of the Kingsdown, Cotham and Redcliffe RPZs.
It has now become clear that the total amount of annual income from these three RPZs equates to a whopping £626,000. Together with the original figure, this takes the total expected surplus to over three quarters of a million pounds. Following an investigation by the Liberal Democrats, a bizarre excuse that 'these RPZs were fully operational' has been given as a reason by the Council for excluding the three areas from the report. It was further revealed that 'there are no outstanding loan repayments to be made for the Kingsdown, Cotham and Redcliffe RPZs'. In other words residents living in Kingsdown, Cotham and Redcliffe are continuing to pay extortionately high parking permit costs when in reality their permit prices could have been significantly reduced.
This latest revelation comes after the Lib Dems identified that the city was missing out on nearly £5million of Council services every year because of inaccurate Council tax calculations in the mayor's budget. It also follows on from another campaign by the party, which brought to light how £8.3million of taxpayer cash used to help pay for Bristol's year as European Green Capital had not yet been fully disclosed.
Lib Dem mayoral candidate Dr Kay Barnard said:
"These figures are truly astonishing and give credence to the views expressed by many local residents that these parking schemes are being used as a cash cow. RPZs should exist to address local parking problems, not to be used as money-making schemes. The fact of the matter is that the Council has made a substantial profit of over half a million pounds from just three RPZ areas. This proves what we having been saying for a very long time - that the resources are clearly there for the cost of the permits to be reduced in these areas. There is no justification for residents who live there to be asked to pay such a high price.
"Keeping RPZ permit costs as low as possible for all residents is essential for helping those on low and middle incomes and for delivering a scheme that is seen to be fair for all. If elected, I will reduce the cost of the first RPZ permit to the amount required to administer the scheme. This very simple change to the way the permit is calculated will put more money back into residents’ pockets."
Cllr Gary Hopkins, Lib Dem Group Leader added:
"Bristolians will understandably be asking themselves questions as to why there was such secrecy over the extra money being brought into the Council's coffers through the Kingsdown, Cotham and Redcliffe RPZ schemes. There is nothing fair about what the Council is doing here and quite frankly it should not be happening. Other neighbouring Councils have much lower RPZ permit costs. In Cardiff you pay just £7.50 for the first permit and £30 if a second permit is needed. Why then should local Bristolians have to pay so much more?"
When RPZ permits were first introduced (in consultation with local residents) they were set at £30 for the first permit and £80 for a second permit. Since the mayor has rolled out his RPSs across the city (without consultation) he has increased the cost of the first permit to at least £48 for most vehicles and to £96 for a second permit.