On 1 April 2005, the Council put up its car park charges by 25%. This was to cover an anticipated budget deficit of £171,000. In July 2005, it turned out that the anticipated deficit had become a revenue budget surplus of £260,000. I then conducted a campaign to get car park charges reduced. Perhaps as a result of this campaign, the charging policy was modified as a result of a November  report on Car Park “strategy” by the introduction of 3 new bands (3hours , four hours and six hours) for long stay car parks – previously the only bands had been one hour, two hours and all day.

I continued the campaign with specific reference to my own ward, because Malton is not a tourist destination, and local trade cannot withstand the same high charges as well as places like Pickering or Helmsley. Ultimately, it was resolved to conduct a trial in regard to Wentworth Street Car Park, whereby charges would be reduced to £1.00  for up to one hour and £1-50 for all day.

The success or failure of the trial was to depend on a number of factors, including whether or not there was an increase in “demand” and “occupancy”.

Further information in regard to the campaign can be found elsewhere on this website (see “articles” and “news and views”).

On 14th June 2007 I attended a meeting of the Community Services Committee and spoke against officers recommendations  to terminate the Wentworth Street Trial. The intention was to terminate the trial before the expiry of its full 12 months. The commercial services manager reported that “the trial had failed to meet the criteria of success set out for the evaluation of the trial” and that “termination of the trial could potentially augment income by £3,828 - £9,888.”

The Committee agreed to extend the trial until 17th September.

At the Council meeting of 12th July 2007, a petition was presented asking for the matter to be referred to the Overview and Scrutiny committee in the following terms:

We the undersigned Malton traders:

1 Are concerned that there is a proposal to change the present fee structure at Wentworth Street Car Park without consulting Malton businesses;

2. Request the Council to make a thorough evaluation of the present fee structure through the Scrutiny Committee involving consultation with businesses and to make no change until this is completed.

I  spoke on this issue and proposed “that the Council be requested to make a thorough examination of the present fee structure through the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, involving consultation with businesses and to make no changes until this is completed.” This motion was not agreed, but it was agreed that “businesses in Malton be consulted in the course of the evaluation process”.

This consultation was not carried out immediately. So, at the Council meeting of 6th September, I moved a motion “that parts (i),(ii) and (iii) of Minute no.66 be not implemented pending consultation with businesses in Malton on the evaluation process as outlined in part (iv) of the resolution.” In other words, I argued that the fees should not change until the consultation had been completed. This motion was not agreed.

Subsequently the consultation was carried out and a report reviewing the Wentworth Street Car Park Fees Trial was issued for the meeting of Community Services Committee on 31st January 2008 (four and a half months after the end of the trial). I felt that this report was so unfair and unbalanced that I called a meeting of local business and community leaders under the name of the Car Park Fees Action Group. This is an informal ad hoc meeting of a group of business people I consult on all matters relating to Malton car parks, and we agreed a set of comments which we sent to the Council.

Click here to see a copy of this.

It will be seen that the main issues concern the interpretatation of the Lockwood Survey, the Renaissance Market Towns Programme Car Parking Research of Yorkshire Forward, the way in which the outcome of the consultation survey was dismissed, and above all, the failure of the Report to deal with the trend in the increase of income over the trial period.

A few points need to be added on these matters.

Firstly, the Lockwood Report: this clearly categorises English towns into Regional, sub-regional and district centres, and makes it clear that the lower the status of the centre, the lower car park tariffs need to be in order to encourage consumer spending. I have repeated this point over and over again at meeting after meeting, but neither officers nor a majority would accept this. They have maintained the view that car park charges are only one very insignificant of many factors which determine the success of a town’s shops, and that the main factor is the “retail offer”. What they will not accept is that the standard and nature of the “retail offer” will itself depend on the status of the town.

It follows that one would not expect a district centre like Malton to have the same “retail offer” as sub-regional centre like York.

The second point arises out of the Committee Report to the meeting of 31st January. On Page 10, the following passage appears:

“Appendix B (Table 2) 18th July – 17th September 06-07

Analysis details ticket sales for the last two months (August and September) of the 14 month trial period comparing 2006 with 2007.

  • Ticket sales fell for both the “up to 1 hour” and the “over 1 hour” sales for all car parks in Malton
  • Fewer people in total parked in Malton’s car parks with a substantial fall in ticket sales of  16.7%.
  • Occupancy for Wentworth Street fell by 6% with a slight increase in demand for Water Lane of 0.6%
  • The ratio of one and two hour ticket sales improved to 52/48 due potentially to the massive loss of demand from the Market Place car parks.
  • Income over the two months fell by £5,245.”

This would seem to me to be a mistaken interpretation, as shown by the figures of the excel work sheet (click here), and the appendix to another document prepared by me (click here). Both these documents rely on base data provided by the Council.

I am not a voting member of Community Services committee of 31st January 2008. So I was allowed to speak but could not propose or second a motion or vote.

After making a power point presentation, I asked the Committee to refer the Officers' Report on the Wentworth Street Car Park Trial to Scrutiny Committee, because of the wide difference of interpretation of the facts stated in the report between the Action Group and the officers, and because Scrutiny has the power to interview members of the public and discuss matters in far greater depth than can ever be done at a meeting of any of the main committees of the Council.

My request was supported by a letter from Malton Town Council which was tabled at the meeting.

Councillor Brian Maude (Ind) proposed that the report be referred to Scrutiny and this was seconded by Councillor Tony Hemesley (Ind). The motion was supported by Councillors Clark (L), Mrs De Wend Fenton (LD) and Mrs. Hodgson (LD).

The motion was opposed by Councillors Mrs. Keal (LD), Mrs. Arnold (C), Bailey (C), Mrs. Cowling (C) and Mrs. Frank (C).

As the voting was equal (five for and five against), Mrs. Cowling (C), the chairman, exercised her casting vote, so that the motion was lost.

The officers’ recommendations (leaving the current extortionate tariff in force) were then agreed.

So I accordingly made a written request to Scrutiny Committee for the matter to be considered by them at their meeting on 21st February 2008.

The committee decided to postpone making a decision on whether or not to do a scrutiny review on the Wentworth Street Trial.

In May 2008 I became a member of Scrutiny Committee, and was able to press for a review of the Report which had been presented to the Community Services Committee on 31st January 2008. The chairman, Councillor Mrs. Shields, kindly agreed to this. I put a lot of time into writing notes and reports for the committee to show that the Council’s report was mistaken. These notes and reports are exhibited under the “News and Views” tab.

The main findings of the Committee are as follows:

  1. Whilst over the period of the trial, the figures show some decline in overall revenues across all malton car parks,  there was evidence from previous years that there was a trend of declining income: the rate of decline reduced during the trial period, but it was not apparent that this was a result of the trial.
  2. During the period of the trial, taking all factors into account, it is difficult to argue either way with certainty as to the success of the trial.
  3. The review of car parking did not adequately reflect the occupancy of the car park, although usage and ticket sales were reviewed. There were no adequate measures of occupancy available, although if it were measured, it would be distorted by free parking for the market users, the permits and free permits for community house. It is likely that the average length of stay during the trial was higher.

Click here for a full text of the findings of the Scrutiny Committee and my comments.

In other words, the report which went to Community Services Committee on 31st January was flawed and did not contain sufficient information to justify its conclusion that the fees trial had failed.

One might have thought that, in the circumstances, and particularly bearing in mind  current difficulties created by the Credit Crunch, the Council would have hesitated before putting charges up again. Not Ryedale! The Committee simply accepted the Scrutiny Committee’s Report and then promptly ignored it – and put up all car park charges by 4%, operative as from 1 April 2009 (subject to ratification by Full Council on 15 January 2009).

I continue to campaign for the reduction in charges that my ward and town council wants. I look forward to seeing the FitzWilliam Estate take back the lease of Market Place Car Park, and hope the Council will do nothing to prevent or delay this.

I find it regrettable that the town cannot rely upon the democratically elected council for a fair tariff, but has to look to the Estate instead.


















































































Privacy Policy