A REDUCTION in the carparking charge in Ennis to €1 would result in a loss of income of more than quarter of a million euro to the local authority.
At a recent meeting of Ennis Town Council, Councillor Johnny Flynn urged that the council reduce the standard parking charges of €1.30 to €1 and plan to bring it down further within the next three years.
According to Councillor Flynn since the introduction of the €1.30 charge there has been an annual loss in revenue to the council of €100,000.
“Residents and visitors to Ennis are looking for value, and where you add value you increase and maintain turnover,” he said.
Councillor Flynn stated, “Every other business in the town has had to reduce its prices, if we continue in this way we will lose another €100,000 if we don’t and that’s irresponsible.”
He was supported by Councillor Mary Howard who said that the parking charges are deterring shoppers from coming to Ennis.
“There is long term parking available within walking distance of the town, but they are not suitable if you’re carrying heavy items. There has been some good news with the introduction of free parking for the Christmas period, but it’s still not enough to capture the imagination and get people back,” she said.
She suggested that the price be reduced for a number of months on a trial basis to see what the effect would be. Councillor Michael Guilfoyle asked if the money collected from the parking meters in December and January could be collated to see the effects of the free parking initiative.
Councillor Peter Considine said he did not expect that the council could balance its budget by decreasing parking charges.
Councillor Frankie Neylon commented that he doesn’t believe the price of parking is the issue.
“I remember saying we shouldn’t charge anything so we could get people into town. We are losing the trade, but it doesn’t seem that parking charges are the problem. People are going to Limerick and Galway, they’re going to the Corrib and paying €14 for parking. It’s not for free parking that they’re going, it’s other reasons and they will have to be identified by the Chamber of Commerce. And this council will give them any help in that.”
Councillor Paul O’Shea said, “The bottom line is what I am hearing on the streets is the price of parking is an issue, and calculate the price of petrol on top of that.”
He suggested that a representative from Westport, which reduced its charges to 70c be invited to speak to the council about their experiences. He added that a pilot project similar to that in Westport could be instigated in one of the council’s carparks.
Councillor Tommy Brennan insisted, “If local people can buy something in the town they will pay the €1.30, by the time they get to Galway and pay for the cost of petrol it will cost them more. It doesn’t make sense that parking charges are stopping people from shopping in Ennis.”
Town manager Ger Dollard acknowledged that revenue from carparking has been down in recent years, stating, “I don’t accept that the increase in parking charges led to the reduction, there are other factors at play. He attributed the reduction to the recession and the running of free carparking initiatives.
“He commented that while the recent Retail Excellence Ireland survey found that parking was an issue in Ennis, the survey also found that for many people Ennis is not seen as a final shopping destination.
“The question has to be asked why people are quite happy to go north or south for their shopping,” he said.
Mr Dollard recalled that at the November meeting the council was requested to examine the potential reduction of 10c in the hourly charge for parking.
After a detailed examination on the basis of income to date in 2012 and a projection of the remainder of the year it is anticipated that the council will receive €1.23 million in car parking fees. When account is taken of VAT net income to the council is estimated for the full year at €1.09million.
Mr Dollard went on, “A reduction in car park charges of 10c will result in a loss of income of €82,367 based on the 2012 data. A reduction in charge to €1 will result in an income loss of €254,309.
“The application of VAT has been taken into account in this calculation. As the budget for 2013 is now being prepared it is open to members to make submissions on expenditure reductions or income generation measures that can bridge the shortfall of €254,000 that would arise from a reduction in the hourly rate of car parking to €1.”
Town clerk Leonard Cleary highlighted a number of initiatives being carried out by the council in relation to parking. As well as the free parking initiative, new bylaws will see all two-hour parking spaces increased to three hours and pay by phone is to be introduced. And he commented that there are long stay parking spaces in the town.
Councillor Flynn stated that he would discuss the matter in more detail with the council at the upcoming estimates meeting.