Taxpayers’ £200k for free parking

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TAXPAYERS in St Edmundsbury are paying about £200,000 a year to provide ‘free’ parking to people who use the leisure centres.

The amount paid to Abbeycroft Leisure is revealed in St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s list of payments to suppliers.

The council is required to publish monthly lists for all payments above £500.

The latest list available, for July, shows the council paid £10,414 in car park refunds at The Bury Leisure Centre and £5,680.40 at the Haverhill Leisure Centre.

A council spokeswoman said it transferred the leisure centres to Abbeycroft in 2005.

“Part of the transfer agreement was that the adjacent borough-owned car parks would be free for leisure centre customers.

“Offering refunds is the most effective way to ensure that spaces are available in both car parks for genuine users of the two facilities,” the spokeswoman said.

People using the centres get their parking ticket refunded by Abbeycroft whoich is, in turn, refunded by the council.

The spokeswoman added the July figures were about average.

Cllr David Nettleton, who is chairman of a borough group reviewing car parking charges, said it would discuss the arrangement next week.

He said he was a believer in the principle that the user pays, but that the contractual arrangement with Abbeycroft was unlikely to change.

Meanwhile, the list of payments also reveals that the council spent £10,254 on lease hire vehicles.

The spokeswoman said this was a ‘cost-effective’ way for staff to travel on council business – the alternative being that staff used their own cars and claimed 45p per mile plus a lump sum of around £1,000 a year toward running costs.

And £28,569 in the July list for work on the Kelly’s Meadow traveller’s site at Depden was being funded from a Government grant, the spokeswoman said.