Council ‘milking cash cow car parks’ claim

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THE council has been accused of treating two car parks as “cash cows” amid unrest surrounding its new powers over the seafront.

In January Hastings Borough Council (HBC) took over the Foreshore Trust, an historic body that managed the beach for the people of Hastings. HBC set up a charity committee to oversee the running of the foreshore and boasted it would be “the most transparent charity” in the country.

Hugh Marriage, former chairman of the trust said Hastings would benefit from “its own private lottery fund” using the cash raised in the Pelham Place and Rock-a-Nore car parks, but Cllr Paul Barlow has said most of that will be spent on maintenance.

And the new committee has caused further controversy by putting up parking charges by 10p an hour.

Alan Smith, of the Save our Stade group, said: “It’s not a huge increase, but why is it necessary? HBC parking department might want to increase charges for the car parks it ‘owns’ in order to raise extra income but HBC as trustees must absolutely separate its council thinking from its trustee thinking.

“The trust already has a surplus income of up to £300,000 per year according to the recently retired independent chairman of the trust. Indeed, not so long ago, he rejected a request from HBC to increase parking charges because it was not necessary.

“Now he’s gone it would seem that an unrestrained HBC regards trust-owned car parks as yet another ‘cash cow’ to be milked for all they can squeeze out of them.”

But Cllr Barlow defended the increase. He said: “This is all down to the VAT rise - we had a consultation with the Federation of Small Businesses and the chamber of commerce and they understand the issue. We would find it extremely difficult to justify as a charity taking the hit for the VAT which goes straight to the Government.”

And he added: “We are still working out a forward plan - we are not in a position yet to say whether we need lots more money.”