East Lindsey District Council has confirmed it cannot afford to see a major reduction in the income it receives from car parks - even though some charges could be slashed or axed all together.
The authority has launched a major review of car park operations across the district and is set to scrap the current ‘one size fits all’ policy.
That means inland market towns like Horncastle and Louth could have different regulations and charges to coastal resorts like Skegness and Mabelthorpe.
Figures presented to Horncastle Town Council last week show car parking generates £3.1million a year for ELDC.
The council pays around £1.4m in operating costs - including maintaining car parks – leaving a surplus of around £1.7m.
Two of the leading figures involved in the review - Coun Adam Grist (Portfolio Holder for Market Towns and the Rural Economy ) and Jon Burgess (Economic Development Unit Team Leader) - attended the town council, meeting.
Coun Grist admitted he wanted to see a parking policy which helped ‘revitalise’ inland towns like Horncastle.
Together with Mr Burgess, he outlined a list of possible changes – including a reduced charges. preferential rates for ELDC taxpayers or free parking at certain times of day.
However, Coun Grist warned ELDC could not afford a major reduction income from car parking – particularly as the authority is looking to save £6million over two years.
Goun Grist stressed the surplus from parking operation provided around 18 per cent of ELDC’s net revenue budget and went towards providing key front-line services.
He told town councillors: “Clearly, there are people who would like to see free parking rolled out right across the district.
“Car parking is a major source of income and is used to deliver some of out most important services.
“Whether that surplus can be cut, I don’t know. It might be that in these difficult times, it might have to be increased. It is all part of the consultation and I would urge everyone to get involved.”
Coun Grist said he was ‘delighted’ the review was being conducted by the council’s economic unit – rather than finance department officials.
He admitted previous reviews had been the remit of ‘finance people’ and that resulted in an increase in charges.
Town councillors in Horncastle have welcomed the review and are keen to make recommendations to ELDC about the changes they would like to see in the town.
Several councillors said they favoured the introduction of free parking periodsin the town centre in either the Market Place or St Lawrence Street.
They said the decision to implement free parking at The Wong had been a success .
However, they suggested ELDC should promote The Wong as a free car park much better and that would reduce issues with on-street parking.
They also called for provision for coaches and motor homes.
Coun Maurice Lamb claimed that ‘over zealous’ parking wardens ‘hunbting in packs’ were also driving people away from Horncastle.