Parking meter halt to leave $30m hole in city budget

The push to curtail parking meters will carve a $30 million hole in Newcastle City Council’s budget over the next decade, the administration said today.

Councillors voted last night to expand free weekend parking, and to stop the planned roll-out of meters to Darby Street, Cooks Hill, The Junction and Beaumont Street.

The administration met this morning to discuss the impacts on the council’s parking strategy, which will need to be re-written by the end of the year because of the change to policy.

The estimated impact on this year’s budget from the free weekend parking is between $400,000 and $600,000, a spokeswoman said.

Over 10 years, the reduction of revenue is expected to create a $10 million hole in the council’s long-term projections.

The dumped expansion of paid parking will set the city back $20 million in the next decade.

The council had promised to re-invest meter revenue from the expansion back into the local areas, which means the expansion will not necessarily be subtracted from the council’s bottom line.

Instead, it could mean that planned public domain improvements, or other associated projects, are scrapped or delayed.

Deputy lord mayor Brad Luke said today that the $30 million figure was an ‘‘overly-optimistic’’ projection put together by staff.

‘‘We need to start addressing our expenses and stop slugging the ratepayers with increases to our fees and charges,’’ Cr Luke said.

The council spokeswoman said significant changes were required to on-street signage.‘‘

Encouraging people to the inner city is certainly the intention of the resolution,’’ the spokeswoman said.‘‘

Council will now have the opportunity to assess whether changed parking arrangements will positively impact on visitation to the city.

‘‘The idea is to free up parking spaces for customers, so employers should definitely encourage employees to ensure customer parking is available.’’

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