Paid parking in Longford town is no longer making a profit for the County Council, a meeting of the Longford Municipal District was told last week.
The meeting heard that income from paid parking has declined since the introduction of a 30-minute grace period before purchase of a parking ticket is required.
Councillors said that the grace period, which was introduced last July, needs to be re-considered, while there were calls for it to be pared back to the original 10-minute time frame .
“The half-hour grace period before and after (a ticket is purchased) needs to be re-evaluated,” Cllr Seamus Butler (FF) said. “Ten minutes is enough time to go in and buy the newspaper.”
The Fianna Fáil representative added, “€2 all-day parking represents tremendous value,” and was adamant there were factors other than paid parking which were contributing to the difficulties faced by businesses in the town.
Cllr Butler went on to say that, “If we can make a surplus from paid parking, it should go back to the businesses.”
His party colleague, Padraig Loughrey reminded the chamber that, “We have a mandate to provide services and these have to be paid for.”
Cllr Gerry Warnock (Ind) said the fall in revenue should be viewed in a positive light.
“Fines are down, and stats show that nearly 40 per cent of fines are related to non-display of a tax disc because the wardens and gardaí have to enforce national laws,” he explained.
Meanwhile, Fine Gael’s Cllr John Browne told the meeting the proposed change was “reasonable” because the grace period following the expiry of a parking ticket is unaffected.
“When your ticket is up, you will still have a further 30 minutes,” he pointed out.
The Municipal District Cathaoirleach, Cllr Mae Sexton (Ind)said she was “completely and utterly opposed” to the move, and proposed that all paid-parking be abolished for a three-month trial period.
“Long-established business owners in town have told me it’s affecting their footfall, and people do not believe they won’t get fined during the grace period” she said. “We need to have a town where people can be relaxed when they go shopping.”
Citing Roscommon and Newbridge as examples of large towns which do not charge for parking, she continued by stating, “I want to see paid parking done away with, but it’s very clear the other members won’t support that.”
The meeting also heard about a planned price reduction for parking permits.
Quarterly permits have been reduced from €400 to€340, while a new permit for those caring for the sick and elderly will cost €30. Over-65s will benefit from free residential parking permits, and permits for contractors will cost €35. Visitor permits will also be introduced.
Welcoming the new permits, Cllr Loughrey said: “We are making substantial concessions.”