COUNCIL leaders are set to rubber-stamp plans to double the cost of garden waste collections and introduce car parking charges in South Gloucestershire despite huge opposition from residents.

Cuts to the council tax reduction scheme (CTRS) – benefits that help the poorest households pay the bill – and shorter library opening hours are also included in the local authority’s annual budget.

Parking fees were opposed by nearly 70 per cent of people who responded to the local authority’s eight-week public consultation from October to December – including 93 per cent in Thornbury ward – while a majority objected to rises in green bin subscriptions.

But the Lib Dem/Labour administration will approve the proposed spending plans on today, Monday, February 5, ahead of full council later this month where the final decision will be made.

The coalition’s pledge to listen to residents was challenged by opposition Conservatives at a council meeting where the budget was debated and the results of the consultation revealed, with accusations that the new political partnership running the organisation had reneged on its promise and just ploughed ahead with its policies regardless.

READ MORE: Protesters say parking fees will ruin Thornbury


Gazette Series: The demonstration against parking charges taking place in Thornbury last weekThe demonstration against parking charges taking place in Thornbury last week (Image: St Mary Centre / Thornbury Chamber of Commerce / Thornbury Town and District Residents Association )

Labour and the Lib Dems said the decision to introduce car parking charges was made by the previous Tory administration in a carefully disguised line in last year’s budget about bringing in more money but without saying where from, leaving them to carry the can.

Council tax will rise by the maximum 4.99 per cent permitted by government, including two per cent for social care.

There were two main options on how to chop £400,000 from the CTRS – one costing about 1,500 households £18 a week and the other seeing more than 5,000 families only 75p a week worse off, and while the consultation results were “inconclusive”, officers are recommending the latter.

Cllr Brenda Langley (Conservative, Hanmah) told the scrutiny commission meeting on Wednesday, January 31 that parking charges would be detrimental to high streets and would cost £750,000 to implement.

Council leader Claire Young (Lib Dem, Frampton Cotterell) replied: “The evidence from across the country is that it doesn’t have a detrimental effect, and the vast majority of councils charge for parking, so it’s the norm – we are outside the norm.”

Details of the new fees will be worked up over the next few weeks, with pay-and-display starting in council off-street car parks before the scheme is rolled out to on-street parking.

Some free parking will remain and business permits introduced.

Gazette Series: South Gloucestershire Council's Badminton Road HQ - photo by Google MapsSouth Gloucestershire Council's Badminton Road HQ - photo by Google Maps

Council co-leader Cllr Ian Boulton (Labour, Staple Hill & Mangotsfield) said: “My own traders have expressed frustration that car parking has been seen as a park and ride and people haven’t used the local facilities that are served by some of the car parks.

“So if we can have an element of free car parking, that will encourage that churn of people coming in using the car parks and then moving on rather than what I have had in my ward where people have parked and then gone elsewhere and not used the local traders.”

He told Tory opposition councillors: “So we are looking at all the impacts of this and reminding you that this was an income charge that came in under the previous administration.

“You may shake your heads but I will remind you that at the previous scrutiny committee when the boot was on the other foot, we asked the previous leader where that income charge was going to be coming from and he said rather vaguely ‘that’ll be up to the next administration to work it out’.”

The proposed budget is balanced over the next three years, with a £6milllion shortfall in 2027/28 after the use of reserves and a £9million gap to address the following year.

Band D council tax will rise to £1,839.54, excluding the police and fire authorities’ much smaller precepts.

A report to cabinet said: “it is considered necessary in the absence of any further funding from government announced in the Autumn Statement to progress with introducing charges for car parking in line with the vast majority of local authorities across the country.

“However, in response to the consultation feedback, an element of free parking will be included as well as the introduction of business permits where appropriate.”

It said: “Uniquely amongst many other local authorities, South Gloucestershire’s green waste service charges to residents have remained static since 2014, with no annual inflationary increase.

“Whilst costs have increased for the delivery of the service, the quality offered to residents has been maintained at a significant financial cost to the council.

“The proposed increase from £30 to £60 will enable the council to fully fund the service as it stands in 2024 and future inflationary annual uplifts will ensure that residents who do not receive the service are not subsidising those who do through their council tax.”

The budget also includes an additional £1million for children’s services to build on the progress made after Ofsted lifted its ‘improvement notice’, free school meals for one week at Easter and one in the summer for 6,500 kids, and debt and benefits advice for an extra 680 complex cases that could make a £2.5million difference to recipients’ lives. 

There will be a pilot scheme to help landlords reach minimum property energy efficiency standards and another to expand youth services, while some eligible residents will be given kettles, slow cookers, LED lightbulbs and radiator panels.

The council says no new cuts in frontline services are proposed.