FROM June 26, parking charges will be increased across Mid Devon.

Leader of Mid Devon District Council, Luke Taylor, said: “We have ‘inherited’ these increases from the previous administration.

“Reluctantly we have agreed to them, as the lesser of two evils.

“Before May’s elections the Liberal Democrats knew that the Council’s finances were in a mess.

“Now we are running the Council we are finding out how much of a mess.

“It will take a lot of work to repair the Council’s finances. There is a significant budget gap, and this will be the case despite these parking charge increases.”

Crediton Councillor John Downes, former Chair of the Council’s Economic Policy Group, commented: “Before the election the Liberal Democrat’s successfully opposed the absurd rises being proposed by the Conservatives. Some increases, however, were inevitable.

“We aren’t happy about this, especially given the cost-of-living crisis. But the mess needs to be cleaned up.”

Confirming that a review of parking charges will take place Councillor James Buczkowski, Finance Portfolio Holder in the new Lib Dem-controlled Council Cabinet, said: “Over the years the approach to parking charges has become fragmented.

“We want to look again at the whole issue of parking charges.

“The two principles of this review will be fairness to local residents and ensuring economically vibrant High Streets.

“We will also ensure that parking charges are fair across Mid Devon and reviewed more regularly. There will be no charging ‘hot-spots’.

“Everything is open to discussion. We welcome suggestions from the public.

“We have inherited a difficult financial situation from the previous administration and face a number of challenging decisions.

“Under other circumstances we would not increase parking charges whilst Mid Devon residents and businesses struggle.

“We must, however, look to the long-term financial stability of the Council. Many people will know that Conservative controlled Woking Council ran up debts of a £1 billion. Liberal Democrats will not make the same mistake.”

John Downes added: “In reviewing how the Council charges for parking we will also look at innovative ways to raise money from car parks and will be setting up a dedicated working group to support that.

“This working group will explore things like looking at potential income from much needed electric vehicle charging points and from the installation of energy generating solar panels, making recommendations to Cabinet. We want to be financially prudent and do good by the environment.”

Mr Taylor emphasised: “We aim to be proactive. We will address the concerns raised by the community regarding parking charges. The establishment of a review demonstrates that commitment. At the same time we must start to repair the Council’s finances.

“Liberal Democrats are dedicated to serving the interests of the residents and businesses of Mid Devon. We will ensure there is open and transparent dialogue about the challenges we face.”