Local councillors have unanimously backed retention of the free hour’s parking in Fraserburgh’s Pay and Display car-parks.
But members of the Banff and Buchan Area Committee were split over proposed changes to the current tariffs.
SNP councillors said the status quo should remain, or at the very most should increase in line with or below the rate of inflation.
However Administration-aligned councillors voted for increases above inflation to plug a deficit brought about by free parking arrangements.
Aberdeenshire Council is seeking the views of its area committees as the local authority strives to fill that gap, with this week’s discussions following a decision by its Infrastructure Services Committee back in January that officers would consult on new tariffs within the current Pay and Display car parks in Aberdeenshire.
The tariffs, which have been in place since December 2014, were introduced to stimulate economic activity in town centres at a time when the economy was struggling in general. But councillors heard that while here has been an increase in the use of the car parks, the free elements have had a significant impact on revenue. Before the revised tariffs, income from car parking charges was £100,000 to £200,000 greater than all of the expenditure on car parks.
That situation changed to one where the position was reversed. The current projected budget position for 2017/18 is forecasting a deficit of approximately £140,000. However it is also anticipated that in future years the current budget allocation for repairs and maintenance will not be sufficient to ensure a satisfactory standard of maintenance within car parks, with costs in this area expected to increase by some £10-£20,000 per annum.
In his report to the committee, infrastructure service director Stephen Archer, said: “The revenue budget approved by Aberdeenshire Council in February 2018 set the budget for car parks at zero i.e. total expenditure should match total income.
“Whilst efficiencies are always being sought in expenditure, the vast majority of the costs are fixed and so to balance the budget there needs to be significant changes in the income.
“With the introduction of Area Based Traffic Orders to replace the previous Aberdeenshire wide order there is obviously a key role for Area Committee to consider what the best solution for their local towns is.
“However the governance for the budget lies with Infrastructure Services Committee (ISC), who have set the requirement that car parking should not be subsidised and must return to a cost neutral position.”
In addition to the proposed tariff changes, councillors will propose to the ISC that Huntly should be brought into line with a free-hour’s parking.