SANTA won’t be handing out free parking to shoppers in Perth this year with councillors effectively killing the proposal by sending it back to committee.
Deputy lord mayor James Limnios had led the push for free weekend parking in the CBD, saying it would help retailers compete with suburban shopping centres for the all-important Christmas trade, particularly if it was matched with public transport incentives.
But Cr Judy McEvoy slammed the scheme as “populist politics”.
“This is like offering kiddies free chocolate and ice-cream but in reality someone is paying for it — our ratepayers,” Cr McEvoy said.
Her comments were backed by colleague Janet Davidson, who said the council had already signed off on its budget with full knowledge of the hard economic times.
Cr Limnios said Perth was experiencing its most challenging economic period in 15 years and 60 per cent of retail profits are made around Christmas.
An internal estimate placed the foregone parking revenue from 3390 bays over nine days at $742,393, but Cr Limnios’ says that’s “an investment that no logical thinking person could dispute” given improved returns for traders.
“What I am trying to achieve is to get the people that would otherwise not even think of the city for Christmas shopping to be incentivised with the option of free parking,” Cr Limnios said.
“I would like to remind my fellow councillors that we are not a for-profit, we are a local government that is here to provide a service to our CBD community that really needs our help now,” Cr Limnios said.
“This is no time for ‘business as usual’ because if you take a walk around the city block any day of the week and on weekends you can see that business is not doing so well,” Cr Limnios said.
Lord mayor Lisa Scaffidi agreed times were hard, but sent the item back to the finance committee so it could be looked over by staff.
“The issue is not competing with suburban retailers but all retailers competing for limited dollars,” Ms Scaffidi said.
Ms Scaffidi thought a toned-down version of Cr Limnios’s plan might work and asked City officers to look into options for implementation in early 2017.
by TRILOKESH CHANMUGAM