Residents and visitors to Angus will be able to enjoy free parking for another six months, in an effort to help the region’s struggling high streets.
Parking charges were scrapped at the beginning of the lockdown in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus – but Angus Council has now agreed to continue to suspend these charges until the end of March.
The decision was made at a meeting of the full council yesterday discussing the financial implications of the coronavirus outbreak in the region.
Councillors were told an extra £13.2 million needs to be added to the 2020/21 budget, which was agreed back in February, to cover the additional costs of the lockdown.
Councillor Mark Salmond called for parking to remain free to help local businesses recover financially.
At the meeting, he said: “The effects of Covid-19 mean there needs to be a major rethink of how business is done all over the world.
“No country or business, big or small, is immune to this and supporting the economy and securing jobs must be a top priority, along with the health of the community.
“We need to give our high streets some breathing space because we don’t know how long the economic effects of this will go on for.
“The financial implications of suspending parking charges will be £238,000, which will be funded by the Covid-19 contingency fund.
“This will give the retailers the confidence to plan ahead and focus on Christmas 2020.”
Councillor Derek Wann then pointed out the cost of this could pay for six and a half social workers and four qualified social workers, however, Councillor Salmond’s proposal was agreed.
It was also agreed to take money out of the council’s financial reserves to cover the additional costs that have stacked up over the past six months.
Councillor Angus Macmillan Douglas said: “These changes to the budget are mostly as a result of health measures to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic which made the February 2020/21 budget undeliverable.
“The service budget will have an overall deficit of £10.9m when compared to the original budget for this year, mainly due to the costs of schools with social distancing, extra cleaning and provision of IT equipment.
“The estimated increase in school costs this year is £5.5m, of which the government has committed to fund £2.9m leaving Angus Council to fund the other £2.6m.
“Overall the increase in costs for this year against the February budget is £13.2m, and the likely increase in government funding due to Covid-19 is estimated to be £9.5m.
“I propose we take £3.435m from our uncommitted general reserves fund and balance that with unused money from the early learning budget.
“This would in fact leave us with £0.9m for this year.
“We are in a strong position, but not as strong as if Covid-19 had not happened.”
The paper, along with the amendment to continue to suspend parking charges, was agreed unanimously.