Radstock Labour Councillor Lesley Mansell has written in to our letters column condemning Bath and North East Somerset Council's decision to propose parking charges for the Somer Valley in the latest budget.

It is that time of year when Bath and North East Somerset Council looks at it’s budget for the next financial year. In the words of the Liberal Democrat administration: “We are facing a significant budget challenge for 2024 to 2025”. This is self-evident as the accrued current budget deficit stands at £17.3m in the next financial year, and £35m over the next five years.

This is my first year sitting on BANES Council, however, I do have a sense of déjà vu when I see that one of the proposals to make up the funding gap is to impose parking charges in the Radstock and Midsomer Norton area once again.

It doesn’t seem five minutes since over 1,000 of our local businesses and residents signed a petition, organised by Cllr Grant Johnson (Labour Party Paulton) calling on the Council to rescind the proposal to include parking charges in the Somer Valley area. This achieved its purpose as the Liberal Democrat administration withdrew their draconian suggestion.

I am sure you will be surprised to hear that there is a proposal to reintroduce parking charges by levying new emissions-based parking charges in car parks in Radstock and Midsomer Norton.

However, B&NES have not produced any figures to show how much will be raised by this manoeuvre, how much carbon reduction will be achieved and precisely how much is being done to counter the use of personal vehicles alongside increasing usage of public transport.

Indeed, what are the figures to show how much potential damage this could cause to the businesses we currently have. Many businesses, like the rest of us, are still coming to grips with the impact of Covid, and years of the government’s austerity policy, which in turn has led to the cost-of-living crisis.

I am sure we all understand that setting budgets is a difficult task. I can only reiterate that this myopic policy will not invest in our high streets and promote their renewal, it may well increase their decline which in turn will impact on the health and well-being of all the residents in the Somer Valley.

Rest assured the Labour Group will be challenging this proposal. We are keen to hear from you to take your views forward. So please get in touch with me as soon as possible and I will raise this with the Labour opposition.

Cllr Lesley Mansell, Radstock Councillor Labour Party