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A bid to stop the council turning a car park by the Arrochar Alps into one of the most expensive in Scotland has been rejected by councillors by a vote of 18 to 12.
Argyll and Bute Council has plans to impose an 800 per cent increase in day rate at the car parks at Glen Loin – an increase from £1 to £9 a day.
The car park at Succoth is used by walkers heading for the Cobbler. The price hike has been met with a major public backlash, with an online petition gaining more than 4,000 signatures.
At a meeting of the council on Thursday September 27, the SNP group presented a motion proposing a capped rate of £3 per day. They claim it will bring charges more in line with Ben Nevis at £4 per day and Ben Lomond at £3 per day, while both these car parks, unlike Arrochar, also offer toilets and other facilities.
Councillor Iain S Paterson (Lomond North) proposed a motion, seconded by Councillor Lorna Douglas, to cap the ‘punitive’ £9 per day at £1 an hour for up to three hours, and then £3 per day thereafter.
He said: ‘It is an outrageous leverage they are trying to impose. To go from £1 to £9 per day has caused major consternation among my constituents and beyond.
‘People are not against charges per se, but they are against the level of the charges. A charge of £1 an hour is acceptable with a cap of £3 a day. This would be in line with other car parks in the area.
‘We know the council has to make money and that it has budget deficits, but these are punitive charges and I hope I can persuade the council to make a change.’
The planned Arrochar increase is the result of a commitment made in the council’s budget plans for 2018/19, which were approved unopposed in February.
A council spokeswoman said at the time: ‘We have kept charges to a minimum for as long as possible. The decision was taken at the council budget in February to increase charges at Arrochar in line with other off-street parking across Argyll and Bute. Charging only applies between 8am and 6pm, which equates to £1 per hour.’
The amendment, proposed by the Liberal Democrat-Conservative administration, declared: ‘Eighty per cent of council funding comes direct from the Scottish Government; over the past five years funding to local authorities across Scotland has decreased by almost £750 million.
‘Argyll and Bute Council has had the largest drop in funding of any of mainland local authority, with funding down by 11.4 per cent, compared to a Scottish-wide funding drop of 5.7 per cent.
‘The council’s in-year financial position is a £2.8 million overspend in 2018/19. The mid-range estimate of further savings required by the council over the next three years is £22 million. Difficult decisions have been made by this council over a number of years now to maintain a balanced budget, as is legally required.’
Argyll and Bute’s SNP MP Brendan O’Hara hit back at the rejection of the SNP motion. Mr O’Hara said: ‘The Tory/LibDem council administration had the opportunity to reverse what was an ill-conceived policy to apply a massive levy on visitors, tourists and locals at the parking facilities at Arrochar.
‘Nowhere in the agreed budget was there any mention of any plan to apply an 800 per cent levy on those who bring tourist trade into the constituency.
‘This has been a missed opportunity. They have effectively introduced a tourist tax on those who bring much needed custom to the area.
‘The usual mantra of trying to blame the Scottish Government for the last eight years of Tory austerity is wearing thin.’