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Forum topic: Solving the Council’s Debt Problem

Solving the Council’s Debt Problem

Karl Brown

12 Apr 2024 17:19 #7118

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Like much of the UK our council is (very) heavily indebted. In seeking to control the position we have already seen our council tax rise 5%, services withdrawn, and other charges increased.  Several local authorities are effectively bankrupt, many others are at risk of following. Best if Enfield is not one of them.

In the “startling impact” fee rise category falls the new cost of securely parking a bike kerbside. This has just increased from £12 to £72pa. That’s 600%.

Was this part of Rish!’s War on the Driver pushback? I wondered. But reading the Local Plan, now in consultation, I noted, “The kerbside belongs to everyone”. That may be the case but most of the time most of the kerbside is taken up with parked cars, mostly paying nothing.  Certainly, some popular kerbsides are charged to manage parking demand but in the main, park a car kerbside and it’s free. Yet park a bicycle and it costs you £72pa.

In this particular War of the Wheels, 2 seemed to be losing out (badly) to 4. It’s been communicated that a typical parked-up car will take up the equivalent space of six parked-up bicycles. So, like for like, that car should be paying 6*£72, or £432pa. Some smaller cars may be only 4 bike lengths equivalent (£288pa), whereas a large SUV is perhaps 8 bike equivalents (£576pa).

Across all of Enfield there are close to 140,000 registered vehicles. At the average car bike-size equivalent of 6 bikes that would suggest an income just north of £60m pa. That’s certainly a lot but in the short term at least not enough to make serious inroads into the council’s (ie our) debt moving towards £1 billion. Now, were the council to issue a bond – say £800m, over 20 years, paying 4% - then this parking income could be employed to meet the regular repayments (says my calculator). The current level of debt could then be all but cleared now, interest repayments that would have been used to satisfy it would be no more and could be used instead to improve services, reduce council tax, or both. Additionally, out of borough drivers choosing to use our kerbside would be liable for the new fee, most simply as a generic £500pa to save on administration, so bringing a significant new income stream to our borough.

Initially I was peeved that the annual cost of securing my bike was going to be noticeably more than its worth and not a million miles away from what a bike-hire scheme would charge for permanent use. But with eyes now open to the bigger picture, I think this is a great initiative. We now simply need a local leader with the steeliness of Liz Truss to bring this financial logic home.

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