Tunbridge Wells council boss sparks fury with parking fees remark
By Kent and Sussex Courier | Friday, October 26, 2012, 08:01
MOTORISTS have a psychological block about paying to park, according to a £104,000-a-year council boss.
under fire: William Benson
Tunbridge Wells Borough Council's chief executive William Benson caused outrage with his comments on plans to introduce fees in some of the borough's few remaining free car parks.
He said at a cabinet meeting: "Car parking is always very high up on the minds of residents and one of the more difficult decisions we make.
"It is worth noting that in the total cost of a journey, parking forms a fraction of the cost. There seems to be some sort of psychological issue of putting a pound into the meter."
The remark has particularly touched a nerve with traders in Southborough whose customers rely heavily on the Yew Tree Road free car park.
Shelly Lindsay, the owner of TN4 studio in London Road, said her clients needed the car park, adding: "When you earn the kind of money he does, it's easy to say that, but this is a huge issue for traders – that car park's all the town's got left.
"I think there's a psychological issue with the council not helping small businesses – perhaps he should give some of his wage up to ensure that car park stays free."
Sue Barter, a saleswoman at Tunbridge Wells Shopmobility, also in London Road, said: "A pound's a lot of money. I think it's terrible he said that.
"It may not go far nowadays but it's still a lot of money for many people. It's nearly a week's milk supply for some people."
David Neve, leader of the Liberal Democrats on the borough council, also took issue with the chief executive's comment, saying: "I think it's condescending because he doesn't know how much people have spent to get to the town.
"Parking is another additional cost people incur, it is not psychological at all but something that people need to take into consideration."
Mr Benson said he was not intending to be condescending, adding: "(The point) was made in the context of a broader discussion recognising the importance of car parking and emphasising that the council was proposing to freeze car parking charges and residents' permits in an effort to try to help residents, shops and businesses in these difficult times.
"The point was a response to comments made about free parking at Bluewater. By car from Tunbridge Wells a return journey to Bluewater would cost between £8.40 and £14.50 in fuel, far more than the cost of parking here in the town, which has much nicer facilities and shops."
Full details of the proposals pages 8 & 9