The Infrastructure Minister has vowed not to push up parking charges in the short-term to plug the £1.8m hole in his department's purse caused by making parking free during lockdown.
Speaking yesterday, Deputy Kevin Lewis said it wouldn't be fair to make islanders foot the bill at a time when they are already “very short of money” - but didn't rule out doing so in future.
The Minister scrapped parking charges and time restrictions in all government-run car parks and on-street spaces from the moment the island went into lockdown on 30 March.
They were then reintroduced on 1 July as lockdown eased, while Patriotic Street and Gloucester Street car parks returned to their regular use after being used exclusively for health workers.
Deputy Lewis said that, as a result, the car park trading fund – which holds all the financial assets from Government car parks – had been “trashed”.
Pictured: The Minister for Infrastructure, Deputy Kevin Lewis.
Amid questions about cash projections for the fund from Constable Mike Jackson during a Scrutiny hearing yesterday, the Minister hinted that his decision to scrap parking charges didn't go down so well - although he didn't make it clear with whom.
“You’ll recall, Chairman, I suggested that a few months back and my ribs are still healing," Deputy Lewis said. "I had a good kicking over that one, but, there you go, that’s where it is at the moment.”
He then went on to explain that making car parks free while people were self-isolating and couldn’t get to their cars and freeing up spaces for “colleagues in health who were literally at the sharp end of things”, had led his department to lose a total of £1.82m in income between April and June.
"The typical annual budget for car parks is £6.1m," he added.
Pictured: £1.8 million of revenue was lost by scrapping parking charges for three months.
He also suggested that “post-covid travel patterns” could lead to more losses, as people continue to work or opt for alternatives to their car journeys.
“…Without understanding how that has changed, it is impossible to make an accurate projection,” the Minister said.
Revenue from car parks not only covers the salaries of parking control officers, but also general maintenance at the multi-storey car park and the open car parks, which all need maintaining. It also funds the maintenance of bus shelters and minor road repairs.
Despite the fund taking a “terrific hit” – “we’ve lost the best part of four months revenue … It’s going to take a while to recoup” - Deputy Lewis said some projects will still go ahead.
“We have to cut our cloth very carefully and, obviously, non-essentials will be phased out, but there is still a lot of essential stuff I would like to see carried out.”
Pictured: Deputy Lewis said he doesn't plan on increasing parking charges for the time being.
However, Deputy Lewis said he has no plans to extend parking hours or increase parking charges for now - although it might be on the cards in the future.
“I can’t rule that out. I would say I hope not because having just come out of covid, an awful lot of people are very short of money and to hit them with parking charges at the moment would be a little unfair.
“But possibly, down the road some way, it might be something that we have to do. But I want to keep things as they are for the time being.”
Meanwhile, Deputy Lewis said he was not opposed to having dedicated parking spaces for health workers as long as the costs of those spaces is covered either by the Health Department or through a transfer from the Treasury Department.
The Minister explained that as multi-storeys are “extremely expensive” to run and maintain, they are not in a position to subsidise the Health Department.
Pictured: The Minister said he wasn't opposed to having dedicated spaces for health workers in Patriotic Street car park.
"If there was a transfer from Treasury, then I am sure arrangements could be made,” he said.
“With the pandemic, when it was at its height, we had permits for people at the General Hospital to park up and it wasn’t just doctors and nursing staff, this included engineers, cleaners, you name it… There was, I think, 800 permits handed out or thereabouts.
“We were more than happy to help during an emergency but it’s not really for infrastructure to subsidise the Health Department but we are more than happy to make arrangements if they wish to pay ‘en bloc’ or via the Health Department.”
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