The Mayor made a statement to Council on his budget proposals for 2015/16.
In doing so he provided some background on previous statements he had made to Council on the Councils financial position over the next 5-6 years and the challenges faced, including the rising demand for children and adult social care services. He also referred to the problems of the national deficit and the level of public borrowing and against this financial backdrop, the possibility of further austerity measures by any future government.
The Mayor also referred to Council on 22 October 2014 at which he outlined 45 proposals (copies of which had been circulated to Members) in relation to the 2015/2016 budget which amounted to £14.1 million of savings.
The proposals, which had been subject to a six week consultation process ending on 3 December, had resulted in the receipt of nineteen responses, an overview of which was provided at the meeting.
The Mayor stated that all his proposals would stand although he indicated that proposal number 43 relating to the camera enforcement initiative on the bus lane on Newport Road, would be modified.
In this regard he stated that the camera had been installed to keep the bus lane clear so that public transport was assisted in keeping to time whilst travelling through a very congested part of the town. Whilst it was not intended to generate income, he considered that a financial penalty was an effective way of changing driver behaviour.
The level of income through misuse of the bus lane had been far higher than anticipated, leading to the reference to the increased income of £30,000 in the Mayors budget proposal statement.
The Mayor added that following the installation of the camera on 4 June 2014 and up until 26 July, all offenders had received written warnings. After 26 July, Penalty Charge Notices were issued and totalled 2,673 offenders. The Notice represented a £60.00 fine, but providing it was paid within 14 days, it was reduced to £30.00. To date, 1,958 Penalty Charge Notices had been paid, with 179 appeals having been made, 175 of which had been successful.
The revenue received by way of the Penalty Charge Notice procedure amounted to £65,647.
The Mayor indicated that he had analysed the subject in great detail and liaised with a number of people including officers, Councillors, members of the public and community activists.
The Mayor believed that a proportionate intervention in any form of minor law breaking was the most appropriate policy and if the member of the public abides by the request, then that should be an end to the matter. If however they failed, or repeated the offence, then they should be reported for summons or issued with a Penalty Charge Notice.
He added that in addition, the fine should be proportionate to the offence committed as the public had a right to be treated with fairness and proportionately.
The Mayor stated in conclusion that having listened carefully to the people he had liaised with; he had made the following decisions:
i) the cameras should remain; and
ii) any vehicle identified by registration number recognition breaching the law, will result in the registered keeper receiving a warning, but any subsequent breach will result in a Penalty Charge Notice being issued. In other words, a warning will be given for the first time offence.
This will now be the Council's policy in relation to this subject.
In addition, because of the policy change, the Mayor made the following additional decisions, that will now occur forthwith:
i) All members of the public who have received and paid a Fixed Penalty Charge without having received a warning first, which number 1,958, will now be reimbursed for a first offence;
ii) All members of the public, who have appealed and failed in the process and paid the Fixed Penalty Charge, will also be reimbursed;
iii) Any member of the public who has failed to pay the Fixed Penalty Charge, will not be pursued by the Council for any late payment; and
iv) The new policy will come into force on 15 December 2014.
Subject to the above decisions, the Mayor confirmed that his original proposals would now become formal recommendations to Council, which will be included in the budget process of the financial year 2015/2016 and beyond.
In response to his statement, a Member raised a number of related issues.
ORDERED that the proposals outlined above be noted.