A municipal district council in Co. Cork has suspended its parking charges until an equitable system is found for all towns in the county.
At present there are many towns which have pay parking while neighbouring towns don't and there are no charges at all towns west of Bandon in the county.
Members of the Bandon/Kinsale Municipal District Council, have thrown down the gauntlet to council bosses in County Hall by voting to axe their charges until a uniform system is in place countywide.
Independent councillor Alan Coleman got backing for his motion from the majority of his municipal district colleagues.
He said it is unfair that the two main towns in the municipal district have parking charges when many others didn't.
Mr Coleman pointed out that pay parking was originally introduced by former town councils on “a quid pro quo basis” because businesses in those towns then paid lower rates than in other parts of the county.
However, he pointed out that since then all rates in the county have been equalised.
Municipal district council chairman, Fine Gael councillor Kevin Murphy, told him there was no way West Cork councillors would vote at a full council meeting for uniform pay parking charges, adding that some had previously said such a move "would be over their dead bodies".
He told Mr Coleman he therefore thought the motion “foolhardy.” However, Mr Coleman was backed by Fianna Fáil councillors Sean O'Donovan and Gillian Coughlan and Fine Gael councillor Marie O'Sullivan.
“Pay parking shouldn't be implemented in some towns and not others,” Ms Coughlan said.
Ms O'Sullivan added that people from the Kinsale area could avail of free parking when they do their shopping in Wilton and Douglas.
“Clonakilty is managing fine and they don't have pay parking. It's not fair on businesses because it's an extra tax on shopping in Bandon,” Ms Coughlan added.
Mr O'Donovan had originally proposed that parking charges be further suspended in the municipal district for an additional 12 months to help businesses get through the downturn caused by Covid-19.
He said people who had shopped elsewhere have come back into Bandon because the charges have been dropped.
Municipal district officer Enda O'Halloran said suspending pay parking would cost the council significant income loss. He said that it annually raises approximately €107,000 in charges and fines in Bandon and €290,000 in Kinsale. The cost of employing traffic wardens for both towns is €139,000.
Mr Murphy pointed out that the municipal district is able to use the income to provide grants to community groups and amenity projects and he didn't want to see that revenue cut to them.
He maintained it is “madness” suspending the parking charges and it would have an impact on community groups which previously were unable to avail of such grants.
Mr Murphy also pointed out that council chief executive Tim Lucey has said the council faces a €19.1m budget deficit due to the pandemic and every bit of income was needed.
However, his colleagues outvoted him and Mr Coleman's motion was agreed.
“There needs to be a level playing field for everybody,” Ms O'Sullivan said.
Ms Coughlan added that if there was one universal charge then people could buy tickets and use them anywhere.