Southend Pass slammed as costly vanity project

A cut-price parking pass spearheaded in Southend may have cost more than £382,924 in lost revenue since being launched nine months ago.

Council officers say they need more time to fully evaluate the impact of the Southend Pass on parking revenue.

However, a request for information by Conservative councillors revealed the cost currently stands at £382,924 in lost parking fees.

If the parking pass had not been introduced, the council would have made £634,439 in total revenue under normal parking tariffs.

Revenue from the parking pass stands at £258,944, resulting in the £382,924 figure for lost income for the council.

Councillor Tony Cox, leader of the Conservative group, claims that with money set aside to offset losses and start-up costs for the scheme it had already cost in excess of £700,000.

He said: “We’ve seen how much it’s costing taxpayers to subsidise those who live out of town. The council is haemorrhaging money on this vanity project and now council officers tell us they need more data to judge the scheme.

“We’ve lost £400,000 and we’ve still got three months to go to the end of the financial year.”

Southend Council began a trial of the scheme in April.

In exchange for a paying £8.50 per month, both residents and people from outside the borough can park for up to three hours for free in both council car parks and on metered streets.

In a report introducing the scheme in September 2020, officers estimated the potential loss of parking income could be in the region of £125,000 based on a 10 per cent uptake of the borough’s 82,000 registered vehicles.

The latest figures show 4,159 people are using the pass.

Cllr Ron Woodley, deputy leader of the council, said: “The number of pass holders has increased by more than 65 per cent since June and I am sure this number will continue to rise. This is part of a parking package and revenue from that is on target to raise the £1 million we expected to raise to pay for highway repairs.

“As part of the draft budget proposals for 2022/23, and following feedback from users, I am also pleased to say that we are set to offer a one-month and three-month Southend Pass option from April 2022. This will add to its appeal and offer an annual benefit of up to £6,048 worth of parking for just £102 a year, available for all, not just residents of Southend.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter