A Llanelli based County Councillor has insisted that Llanelli Town Council were instrumental in forcing the county council to do a ‘U-turn’ regarding where the £180k from the Welsh Assembly Government would be spent, when unelected officers recommended it should be spent on upgrading pay and display machines rather then trialling free parking schemes in town centres.

Speaking to Llanelli Online about the town council’s involvement County Councillor John Jenkins said:

“They (the officers) saw it as an opportunity to have £180k off the Welsh Assembly and to put it into their budget and use it for whatever they see fit. WAG gave this money for free parking trials.”

Cllr Jenkins also urged fellow county councillors to read the agendas in order to be aware of what is being presented by the unelected officers at Carmarthenshire County Council. The Elli ward councillor claims that save for his eagle eyed reading of what goes before the council the decision may have been carried unopposed.

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Cllr Jenkins said that he had spotted the anomaly and alerted fellow councillors in Llanelli who he says all decided to oppose the plans and to write to the executive board member for the environment, Hazel Evans

Cllr Jenkins said: I took the information into the town council meeting and all 22 of us agreed and voted to  oppose the council’s plans to use the money for upgrading pay and display machines and our voice was heard. There are going to be much bigger fights in the next few weeks.

Llanelli has to realise it has a strong voice and strength in numbers. It has a town and rural council that when they exercise their voice and we act as one, then the county council the health board and the Welsh Assembly, they hear us. I think we have to start putting party politics aside and speak as a town and put the best interests of Llanelli first.

Speaking about the initial decision by the council to use the money on upgrading pay and display machines Cllr Jenkins said:

“The cabinet member decisions are basically one councillor, a member of the cabinet who makes the decision. Those meetings are often 5  to ten minutes in length. They are public meetings and  they have to take public representation and representations from local councillors and town councils.

“I am fortunate in that I think I am one of the few councillors who reads the agendas for these meetings.  I noticed there was something that was pretty big. It was £180k. It is not going to come round every year.”

At a council meeting earlier this month, the council recommended the approval of the use of a Welsh Government grant to procure and install 45 new pay and display parking ticket machines in various town centre car parks that it operates.

Cllr Jenkins claims that there was also a public backlash, which may have had some influence on the decision to make a U-turn.

Llanelli Online understands that the £180,000 was provided to the council through the government’s Revenue Support Grant to fund pilot projects relative to parking, with the aim of exploring the relationship between the offer of free car parking, or a reduction in charges, and generating a positive impact on town centres.

It is understood that unelected officers at Carmarthenshire County Council made the recommendation for the cash to be used otherwise.

Councillor David Darkin said: “I’m pleased to hear that the funding will now be allocated as intended. Discounted and free parking schemes have been welcomed by town centre businesses and I’ve heard great feedback from previous schemes.

“As such, I look forward to seeing how the parking pilots can be developed. I’ve also been working with the Business Improvement District and the County Council on a range of other parking measures such as ‘shop & drop’ and adjustments to waiting times and parking areas that will also contribute towards town centre improvements.”

Watch our interview with Cllr John Jenkins here:

John Jenkins on Parking from Llanelli Online on Vimeo.

Llanelli Online contacted Carmarthenshire County Council for a comment. We asked if we could get a statement regarding  the £180,000 Government Revenue Support Grant to fund pilot projects relative to parking.Questions we asked were:

Why did the council decide to use the money on upgrading parking machines?

Who made that decision and when?

What consultation took place and with who?

Why have the council decided to reverse the decision?

How will the money now be used?

Will the council be consulting with anyone on the spending?

They issued the following response to our questions:

“The potential for more free parking pilot initiatives for council run car parks in Carmarthenshire are to be explored.

“Carmarthenshire County Council’s executive board member for environment, Cllr Hazel Evans, has asked officers to look at opportunities to trial free parking schemes to see what effect it has on our town centres.

“It is part of a range of measures the council is looking at to support town centre traders and increase footfall.

“The council has already undertaken several free parking trials in town centres, and currently supports free parking on up to five days a year for all town centres to promote key events.

“In Llanelli, working with the local Business Improvement District, the council piloted free parking after 3pm in 2015, and ‘park for a pound’ on Saturdays at the town’s multi-storey car park in the run up to Christmas 2017.

“It has also implemented free limited waiting bays at pick up and drop off points in the town centres.

“The council will now use Welsh Government funding to support new free parking pilots, which will be developed in partnership with the existing town centre business forums and measured to assess the impact it has on footfall and trade.

“Cllr Evans has made the call after reflecting on an earlier decision to use the funding to upgrade pay and display machines so that they accept card payments. The council will now use its own capital programme funding to modernise the machines.

“On reviewing the letter issued by Welsh Government I am proposing to introduce other measures to ensure the funding is spent in the spirit it was primarily intended for,” she said.

“I have asked officers to explore opportunities for a parking offer to include a pilot for free car parking and bring a new proposal to me for decision.

“It is still our ambition to modernise meters in line with the wishes of traders and local business forums, and we will proceed with the introduction of a ‘pay on exit’ initiative at Llanelli’s multi-storey car park as the first phase of this programme.

“Other elements of the modernisation programme, to upgrade our machines so they accept card payments, will be funded from our capital programme.”

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