Pay parking proposal described as ‘an election gimmick’

A proposal to relax the town’s pay parking regulations was described as populist and an election stunt at the monthly meeting of Mallow Town Council on Monday night.

Cllr Ronan Sheehan asked the council to introduce 30 minutes of free parking on the Main Street, plus free parking all day on Saturdays in the town’s municipal car parks, but Cllr Jerry Mullally accused the councillor of using pay parking as a means of getting publicity before next month’s local election. “What annoys me is that this is an election ploy, and I don’t want this issue to be used as an election gimmick,” he said, adding: “When I raised this same motion I got no support from councillors. Ye all sat down and have no one to blame but yourselves.”

Cllr Sheehan denied that he was electioneering on the issue of pay parking, claiming that he had brought the matter to a meeting of the council’s traffic sub-committee in 2012, but Cllr Melissa Mullane accused him of not raising the issue of pay parking at the budget meeting last January. “It should have come up at the budget meeting, which you supported. Is it even possible to change the rules? We’ve set our budget.”

Cllr Dan Joe Fitzgerald supported Cllr Sheehan’s motion, and went even further by suggesting that one full hour’s free parking be brought in. He added, “I think we were wrong on day one when we appointed an outside contractor [for pay parking]. What we’re offering the people at the moment is not working, it’s seen as a money-making operation.”

In the end the discussion was academic, as under the rules the council can’t change any budget item for at least six months after agreeing it, and as the budget was agreed in January it would be July before a change could be made, and Mallow Town Council will have been abolished by that date. Town Clerk Kevin Curran also pointed out that, even if the change were possible, giving one-hour free parking would wipe out all revenue from on-street pay parking, and free parking in the municipal car parks would cost the council €250,000. “Had we discussed it in terms of the 2014 budget, I would have advised members that this proposal would have resulted in a significant loss of income, and an increase in rates of 14-15%.”