Free parking will be offered every day under new budget plans unveiled by Northampton Borough Council today - but staff face changes to their terms and conditions as part of a programme of cuts totalling £2 million.
Parking in Northampton’s four multi-storey car parks will be free for the first two hours on weekdays, and free all day Saturday, if the authority’s proposed budget for 2014-15 gets the go-ahead.
The council says this will cost it £664,783 in lost parking charges, but will encourage more people to come into the town centre, as shown by a successful trial in August.
Discussions have started with unions and staff representatives about the changes to terms and conditions, which the authority says will be similar to those introduced at Northamptonshire County Council.
Staff at County Hall have seen cuts to their sick pay allowance, including not being paid for the first three days they are off ill, and a reduction in long-term sick pay.
The budget also includes capital programme investment of more than £13 million, including the plans to reopen part of Abington Street to traffic, and the demolition of the Greyfriars bus station.
There will also be a freeze in council tax; the creation of a £250,000 ‘business incentive scheme’ aimed at filling empty shops; extended opening hours at the council’s museums, and an increase in the number of neighbourhood wardens and park rangers.
Council leader, Councillor David Mackintosh (Con, Rectory Farm), said: “Funding for local Government has continued to fall and we have had to find ways to take forward our ambitious plans for regeneration that will make Northampton more prosperous in the long term.
“The free parking resulted in greater numbers of people visiting in August, which is traditionally a quieter month. Businesses want to see more investment, and one of the things which is constantly getting mentioned is free parking.”
Regarding staff terms and conditions, Councillor Mackintosh said: “It is about making the authority more business-like. People have terms and conditions here which they would never get at businesses around the town.”
The total net budget for 2014-15 is just over £30 million.
As reported by the Chron last week, the council has already saved £1.4 million by cutting back office costs, and reducing the number of senior managers from 21 to 10.
The remaining £2 million cuts will be made over the next two years.
The proposals will be discussed at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, December 18, and will be formally set on February 24 next year.