MOTORISTS across the Capital face a double whammy amid plans to increase parking charges by up to 50 per cent and slash funds for emergency road repairs.
Fees in Edinburgh’s extended controlled zones are set to rise from £1.20 to £1.80 an hour under updated budget proposals due to be debated today.
If approved, the rise would see rates here soar further ahead of Glasgow and the rest of Scotland, as well as English cities including Birmingham and Manchester.
The increase is part of a budget-saving proposal which would lead to parking fee hikes across the board, with hourly charges at key city centre locations such as George Street, St Andrew Square and Queen Street rising 10p to £3.60.
Transport bosses are also pressing ahead with proposals to slash funds for emergency road repairs from £586,000 to just over £400,000, in a move which could see response times jump from 24 hours to five days. They said too many repairs were being classed as urgent, adding that Edinburgh’s figures were far higher than elsewhere in Scotland.
And they stressed increased investment in “right first time” improvements would reduce the need for such repair work.
The plans are part of the city’s updated 2016-17 budget proposals, which are aimed at saving at least £147 million over the next four years.
Critics said the plans were a sign the city was treating motorists as a “cash cow”.
Neil Greig, director of policy and research at the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said: “It does sound like motorists are not getting any real value for money. We’ve always said that councils should not really be looking at parking as a profit centre.
“It should be, first and foremost, and service to attract people into the city. Having prices go up is no problem if it funds more parking spaces, better ticket machines, more consumer friendly investment, and it covers costs. But it should not be seen as something to replace other parts of the budget.”
The latest proposals show Stafford Street, Melville Street and Shandwick Place are among locations in line for hourly parking rates of £3.
Districts including Bruntsfield, Sciennes, St Leonard’s, Dumbiedykes, Stockbridge and Dean would see charges go up to £2.
But the rise in controlled extended zones such as Dalry and Morningside, where motorists are being asked to swallow fees of £1.80, has sparked particular concern given the growing gap with similarly sized Scottish and English cities.
In Glasgow, charges per hour outside of the city centre, Garnethill, Hillhead and Park Circus are currently 80p. And drivers parking in peripheral areas of Manchester and Birmingham pay hourly rates of £1 and 80p respectively.
Mr Greig said continuing to hike charges could harm Edinburgh’s economy.
“My concern is that any money people spend on parking is money that they’re not spending in bars, restaurants and shops,” he said.
It has also emerged that city leaders will not be able to use borrowing and other financial mechanisms to leverage in additional roads funding over the coming financial year.
They were able to find an extra £5m over and above their core budget in 2015-16.
Councillor Nick Cook, transport spokesman for the city’s Conservatives, said: “We have said for a long time that Labour and the SNP have treated motorists as a cash cow for too long.
“Edinburgh is already the most expensive city to park in outside London.
“While resources are under strain, we do not believe that motorists should be subject to excessive parking fees.
“They are also looking to put up residential parking permits by 5 per cent, which means they have risen by 40 per cent in six years. This is a disproportionate and unwarranted rise which the Conservatives have rejected in their own alternative budget proposals.
“The Capital Coalition’s record on road repairs continues to be one of failure and proposals [to reduce the emergency repair fund] are unlikely to find favour with residents.”
City chiefs argue that, although the emergency repairs fund is set to be reduced in line with new classification criteria, the core roads budget would be protected.
And they have said the need to make far greater savings than expected had limited their ability to invest additional funds.
Councillor Lesley Hinds, transport leader, said: “We’re working smarter and investing the money we have to improve scores of surfaces across the city.
“Because we’re having to make around £80m in cuts, we’re now back to the core investment budget we’ve been working with over the last three years.”
More budget – Page 18
Comment– Page 20