REDUCING the rate of €1.30 per hour that applies in most of the main car parks in Ennis would have serious financial consequences for Clare County Council.
That was the message from Director of Services Ger Dollard at Tuesday’s meeting of the Ennis Municipal District. Mr Dollard claimed that research showed that a drop of ten cents would result in a loss of income of in the region of €80,000 to €90,000.
He was responding to Councillor Clare Colleran Molloy who put forward a motion asking that for a trial period a universal parking fee of €1 per hour be introduced throughout the town to enable a comparison with the same period one year previously.
A written reply to her motion from the Council’s Barry Keating stated, “Parking income is an integral part of Clare County Council’s budget and is necessary in order to balance the resources available and the demands that are being place on the Council. Any potential reduction in this income will have a serious impact on the services that can be provided by the Council.
“Notwithstanding the foregoing, prior to any decision to reduce parking charges, we need to contemplate and ensure that such a reduction will entice additional shoppers to Ennis.
“Therefore this cannot be done in isolation and to facilitate potential shoppers and to provide a continuous turn over of parking spaces, a change in the parking byelaws would be required to cater for this turn over of parking spaces ie reduce the maximum stay in the town centre car parks.”
Speaking about her proposal, Councillor Colleran Molloy said that business people are continuously telling her that parking in Ennis is too expensive.
She said she hadn’t realised until lately that it is possible to pay for parking for less than an hour and she said she believe that “the public at large don’t know that.”
Councillor Pat Daly said that the current price is too high. “€1.30 is too expensive and its hard to compete with shopping centres where parking is free,” he opined.
Independent Anne Norton questioned if it would be better to have lower parking charges and more businesses open paying rates.
Responding, Mr Dollard said that there are really two issues. One of these, he said, is that the Council policy encourages a turnover of space to get more people into the town.
He also claimed that the estimates were that every reduction of ten cent would result in a drop in income of €80,000 to €90,000, which he described as “a serious consideration that has to be taken into account.”
He said that if Ennis Municipal District made a decision which resulted in such a significant loss of income, it would expected to have counter measures to make it up.
Councillor Colleran Molloy asked if the members actually have the authority to reduce the charges and Mr Dollard confirmed that the power does indeed rest with them.
She also asked when the study regarding the impact of reducing parking charges had been done, and if it took into account any impact on commercial rates. Mr Dollard said he accepted that it wasn’t an “exact science” but claimed it is “fairly clear that a reduction to €1 will result in a fairly significant drop in income.”
When she added that her proposal was to drop the charge for a period of time to assess the impact, Mr Dollard said that all the software involved would have to be changed and then changed back, meaning it wasn’t such a simple process.
He reiterated that if the proposal were enacted there would be a loss of income and there would have to be measures to counteract that.
Ultimately it was decided that Councillor Colleran Molloy’s proposal would be included in a future review of parking bylaws.