Minster Badge change

No reminder notices in York car parks

We said on Saturday that the York Council had to ensure that all old style Minster Badge owners were reminded that their stickers were invalid from today (1st September 2014).

Minster Badge

After the fiasco of the poor signage on Lendal bridge, we expected that the Council would have gone to extreme  lengths to ensure that notices were posted in car parks reminding drivers that only Labour’s £20 new style badge would entitle users to a discount ( and free evening parking).

However, it appears that the advice has gone unheeded as there were NO warning signs displayed in York’s most popular car park (Castle) this morning.

No warning notices in Castle Car Park about Minster Badge change

No warning notices in Castle Car Park about Minster Badge change

Those seeking to pay charges using the mobile phone and text services likewise receive no reminder of the change.

How many residents have received penalty notices may become clear in a few days time.

However it is likely that the parking adjudicator may once again be faced with a large volume of complaints from York – possibly leading to the introduction of a costly refund process.

We forecast – 25,000 unhappy York motorists on Monday

Only 3382 new Minster Badges sold.

Less than 10% of current users have been prepared to pay £20 for Labours new style parking discount badge

Minster Badge

The new badge is mandatory from Monday when the old blue free stickers – issued by the former LibDem run Council – will no longer be recognised by parking wardens.

Many traders fear that the message has not got through to shoppers and that some may be alienated if they receive a parking fine.

Another Lendal Bridge fiasco may be in the making. The quality of the warning signage about the change in the car parks on Monday is likely to come under intense scrutiny by residents.

Of over 30,000 current Minster Badge holders in York, only 3382 have so far bought a new Minster Badge. The badge was an initiative by Labour to try to bridge a £200,000 shortfall on parking income.

But it looks like it will make things worse, rather than better. Take up has been well below expectations and if motorists choose out of City centre retail parks in which to do their shopping, then the car parking account will be hit even harder..

Without the new badge, York residents will have to pay the same parking rates as visitors – meaning a hefty increase

Under the LibDems, in 2011 residents paid £1.10 per hour to park at most City centre car parks (those designated as “standard stay”). Residents will now see that increase by a staggering 82% to £2.00.

Even worse may be the effect on the City centre evening economy where the “free after 6:00pm” parking concession will also be lost.

Earlier in the year, a large petition was collected by residents who wanted to see things left as they were.

With the next Council elections only 8 months away, it is likely that the Liberal Democrats will become the first party to pledge to reintroduce the free Minster badge for residents.

In addition any regular visitor to the City should be able to buy one of the new style badges – in recognition of the money that they inject into the City centre economy and the jobs that it supports.

Vacant spaces at York car parks

Still big gaps in Council information

Last year the York Council stopped providing information on its web site about the number of vacant parking spaces at its City Centre car parks.

York Live web site click to access

York Live web site click to access

It promised that the information link would be reinstated by “May”.

2 months later and the information is still not being provided for the most popular car parks like Nunnery Lane and Marygate.

The responsible cabinet member refused to apologies at a recent Council meeting for the delays.

He said people could use social media to find out where to park (actually none of the social media system provided real time parking availability information)

NB. The Council has also been unable to keep many of the on street “Variable Message Signs” in a good state of repair.

Marygate car park barrier scheme cost £100,000

Labour back down and agree to fit card reader payment option by “early autumn”

The Council will fit a credit/Charge car payment option at the new Marygate pay on exit machines.

Marygate car park charges

Although they blame a “national issue with chip and pin devices” the reality is that the Council forgot to include the option in the original design specification.

The new system should not have been brought into service until a choice of payment options was available.

Card payments can be made at other City centre car parks like Piccadilly.

NB. Only about 1000 of the new £20 Minster badges have been sold so far.

Each of York’s 80,000 households is entitled to a badge which replaces the current free badge which was issued when the LibDems were in control of the Council.

There are around 30,000 active Minster Badges currently in use in the City.

From September, anyone without a badge will have to pay the full rate to park during the day and will also lose the right to free evening parking.

Marygate car park – more problems

Marygate car park chargesAs we predicted the new barrier controls at the Marygate car park are causing problems.

The barrier was stuck open on Saturday afternoon

it is impossible to pay for a ticket if the barrier is inoperable, so motorists simply parked for free.

We explained when the barrier scheme was first suggested that reliability would be an issued. So it is proving to be the case.

It is unclear how much revenue the city is losing through unreliability, the improper use of the residents evening free parking ticket system or the inability to pay by card.

The problems are being raised at the Council meeting on Thursday..

“Free” car parking go ahead despite congestion fears

“Free” car parking at some City centre car parks will be introduced – possibly as soon as next week.

Castle short stay car park

Castle short stay car park

Tory and Labour Councillors combined to vote down a proposal which would have seen the “free” period restricted to off peak hours.

Instead the scheme will start at 8:000am the height of the rush hour. It will still finish at 11:00am.

The meeting, at which the issued was discussed yesterday, did not receive any new information about the effects that the concession will have on traffic levels on the highways network.

The plan could operate for up to 12 months and applies only on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Most of the best used car parks – including Castle – are excluded from the concession.


Free car parking – Labour plans DID NOT have business support.


Proposals to introduce free parking at some City centre car parks were agreed by the Labour Cabinet last week.

The “free parking” plan covers the period between 8:00am and 11:00am on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Only a limited number of car parks will benefit from the change.

The plan has been heavily criticised as it will encourage more traffic onto the highways network between 8:00am and 9:00am when congestion is at its worst.

Labour claimed that the plan was the result of a proposal from businesses in the City

…..but we can reveal that was not the case.

In their original plan businesses wanted free parking to operate between 9:00am (when most shops open) and 11:00am.

They did favour the concession being available between Thursday and Saturday but wanted it to apply to all car parks.

Pay on Exit” would also have been introduced at the Castle car park as well as at Marygate.

It appears that Labour spokespeople have been economical with the truth again and face a grilling when the proposal – which has been “called in” for further consideration – is discussed.

There is a “calling in “ meeting scheduled to take place on  12th May 2014 to discuss the Council’s latest Local Plan proposals.

So far, the “Free Parking” issue has not been added to that agenda, suggesting that the Labour Councillors are now desperately casting around for figures to support their perverse decision.

“Free” car parking in York

Since 2012 Labour has  increased car parking charges by as much as 80%.

It has been an open secret that businesses in the City centre hoped to extract major concessions on car parking charges when the new John Lewis development opened at Monks Cross.

Castle short stay car park

Castle short stay car park

Even so, today’s Council announcement that there would be “free” car parking at many  City centre car parks between 8:00am and 11:00am on  Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays comes as a surprise.

Nothing is “free”.  The loss of income – which would eventually fall on taxpayers – could be as much as £500,000 pa.

Dumping more traffic onto the highways network at the busiest time of the week (between 8:00am and 9:30am) could have far reaching consequences for traffic congestion.

The selected times are also those when deliveries are being made in the footstreets area

Park and Ride passenger numbers are likely to suffer, while many shoppers and short term visitors may well choose to do their business in the 3 hour “free” period, leaving car parks empty at other times of the day.

The Council isn’t even in a position to make such an announcement.

No Councillor or officer has that delegated power (just as the “Labour Group” had no constitutional power to remove the restrictions on Lendal Bridge).

But the Councils constitution and delegation schemes have been thrown out of the window in the last few weeks.

A report indicating the consequences of the proposal must go to the “Cabinet” meeting which is taking place on 6th May

Taxpayers, bus users (who would be delayed by added congestion) and rival car park operators will look with interest at the assumptions being made. The private operators  in particular may regard the Councils plan as unfair trading given that the subsidy will apparently come from Section 106 monies derived for the Vanguard development.

With the Council heavily dependant on the £5 million that it receives from off street parking charges, the unanswered question is what happens when the Vanguard subsidy runs out?

A more flexible approach to charging levels is needed and new technologies make this possible.

However, like the Lendal Bridge trial, the plan has all the hallmarks of a badly thought through scheme.

Visitors who arrive back at their vehicles at 11:30am, and find that they have been fined for failing to “pay and display”, are unlikely to be very happy.

The safest option would have been to reduce the charges at off peak times and focus further discounts at identified “shopper’s car parks” such as Fossbank.

The Council should also get on with resurfacing the Castle car park (safety issue) and making sure that the “parking space availability” real time information is once again provided on both their web site and on the variable message boards located on arterial roads.

NB. The Council appear to have missed the irony of issuing, with their media announcement, a photograph of Councillors striding through an already full car park.

“Retain Minster Badge petition” – only 1 week left to sign

Residents only have until 18th April to “sign” a petition on the Councils web site asking for the retention of the Minster badge.


The badge entitles York taxpayers to discount car parking during the day and free parking in the evening.

It is due to be scrapped under a Labour proposal which would see a new badge introduced which anyone would be able to buy.
The petition can be accessed by clicking here

The petition reads,

We the undersigned petition the council to continue to supply Minster car parking badges to York residents free of charge. As one of the few councils in the country who have suffered council tax rises every year under the Labour council while the rest of the country hasn’t. We propose that residents have already paid for this right.

The many businesses that rely on local trade within the city centre are already dwindling. Also many businesses like restaurants and cafes rely on local trade throughout the winter months when there are few tourists. A further reduction in the number of residents visiting the town centre could prove fatal.

Contractors brought in to enforce parking restrictions on York Council estates

Over £14,000 raised in fines

Tudor Road garages - parking clampdown continues

Tudor Road garages – parking clampdown continues

A contract has been let by the Council which will see private contractors enforce parking restrictions on Council estates in York.

In the main, the contractors will patrol garage forecourts and communal areas.

A 3 year trial of a system – which involves issuing Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) for £30 to drivers who park in restricted areas – resulted in 900 tickets being issued.

Most were in City centre areas such as Castle Mills although suburban locations like the garage blocks on Tudor Road (21 tickets issued) also formed part of the trial.

Fines levied by site. click to enlarge

Fines levied by site. click to enlarge

Around £14,000, in fine income, was raised by the contractor.

The new contract will extend the enforcement to all similar areas in the City.

The scheme does not cover public highway or verge parking. Damage to verges is one of the biggest problems in some estates with heavy rainfall resulting in verges which have been badly damaged over recent months.
Behind closed doors logo
While we accept that some enforcement  is necessary – if only to allow easy access by emergency vehicles – we believe that the Council should reintroduce its programme of providing dropped kerbs/vehicle crossovers, lay-bys and other, off street, parking spaces.

Where necessary, verges should be reinforced with matrix surfaces.

The Councils decision was taken last week in another “behind closed doors” decision.

The background paper can be read here.