Ceredigion County Council's Cabinet this morning agreed to allow for free parking throughout the county from 10am on the 3 Saturdays running up to Christmas - the 10th, 17th and 24th December.
This year, the County Council Cabinet Member for Highways, Cllr Ray Quant has come down to Cardigan to meet with representatives from the Cardigan Chamber of Trade and from the Cardigan Traders organisations who have pushed him on this issue. He also accepted an invitation to meet with Cardigan Town Council in the summer where we again made the same comments to him.
It is a great concern because whilst the big supermarkets such as Tesco in Cardigan can afford to supply to its customers free parking, the town centre businesses must reply on the good grace of the local authority to keep its parking charges at an appropriate and reasonable level. To support local businesses and also the local residents who use them, this is therefore a weapon in the County Council's armoury which it has at its disposal but which it has never before utilised in Ceredigion,
I was present in the Cabinet meeting this morning and spoke on the issue. I stated that I personally supported an extentsion to the free parking period to take in the two weeks before Christmas from 12th December to the 24th which was an option in the paper put before the meeting. At a cost of £3,000 a day, it would've meant a total of £36,000 that would need to be found from the Corporate Finance Budget as a means of supporting local business. But with tight budgets, the Cabinet opted to support the 3 Saturdays prior to Christmas option.
It is a shame that this scheme could not have been taken a step forward in this case as I called for, but it is at least a positive step forward which will now have set a precedent for next year and beyond when we can seek to expand on this early Christmas present for local residents and local town centre traders.
This is a positive result for those Cardigan traders who have been campaigning for years to level the playing field with neighbouring towns such as Newcastle Emlyn and Carmarthen. It can go further but Cllr Ray Quant fairly delivered on his promise back in the summer to take these calls back to his department and to push for this positive change.