PERTH councillors have killed off a move to trial free weekend parking to attract Christmas shoppers to the city.
At last night’s council meeting, Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi and councillors Judy McEvoy, Lily Chen, Jim Adamos and Janet Davidson voted to defeat the motion from Deputy Lord Mayor James Limnios to introduce the measure.
Cr Limnios introduced a motion at the previous council meeting for free parking in 12 Perth car parks between 10am and 7pm on weekends, and for the City to meet with the Public Transport Authority (PTA) to establish a strategy to boost public transport use into the City.
“That motion was sent to committee and the outcome was the motion was watered way down,” he said, referring to alternative motions that were presented to the finance committee last week.
“Retailers need our help before Christmas. That is when they are trying to sell their wares at full price, that is when members of the public have their family budgets to spend.
“There is competition from the free parking at the major suburban shopping centres. I have been overwhelmed by the response I have received from retailers encouraging us to introduce this.”
The options put before the finance committee referred only to free parking in January in a limited number of carparks.
“It was watered down but I was very happy when Cr (Jemma) Green added that it should commence December 17th. It is still better than nothing.”
Cr Green said parking was not the only problem facing the City, but was something that is ‘within its power’.
“We can’t change online shopping, we can’t change the economic background,” she said.
“The amount of money spent in December dwarves that in January; the benefit for traders is far greater in December.”
Cr Harley said the city needed more residents and a diversified economic base.
“The city is still a vibrant place, but if you talk to small retailers in particular they will tell you there is a decline,” he said.
The Lord Mayor asked staff to comment on a recent study that she purported had found the cost of parking was not considered a major factor by retailers.
A staff member said out of 50 retailers who the City has spoken with, only one identified the cost of parking as a deterrent to trade.
Asked by Cr Limnios what sort of questions the retailers were asked, the staff member said retailers were surveyed about a proposal to boost trade on Thursday nights and Sundays in February.
“This is not at all relevant to this motion,” Cr Limnios responded.
Cr Harley asked if the traders could be identified, as he was certain the list would not include the “15 traders I have spoken with in recent weeks”.
When he was told the City would need to go back to the retailers and ask their permission to be identified, Cr Harley asked: “If they were not told their responses would be brought before council, why was it raised in regards to this motion?”
“Lord Mayor you have asked staff to provide this information verbally, without providing it in writing and in context… My question for the director is – do you feel you are being used by the Lord Mayor in a political manner?”
This question caused a stir among councillors and the public gallery, and was ruled out of order by the Lord Mayor.
Ms Scaffidi spoke at length about the attractions the City had to offer, and said she was “surprised” that with the sustainability focus of “some members of council” there was not a focus on promoting public transport, despite the fact the second part of Cr Limnios’ original motion expressly stated the City must work with the PTA on a strategy.
“December is tracking well – it is not as bad as people are projecting – it has been an unnecessary brand hit (for Perth),” she said.
The Lord Mayor noted some retail vacancies were due to leases being allowed to lapse because of the impending redevelopment of Forrest Chase.
She noted H&M’s coming move into the old Post Office as a sign of confidence and recovery.
Closing the debate, Cr Limnios said anyone who said retailers were doing well in the current climate was not facing reality.
“What will we say to the mums and dads who have mortgaged their homes to invest in a small business and are struggling? …We need to stop talking about the City of Perth as a business,” he said.
“We are a service provider… We are not a board of directors and this is not a business, we are here to help the community.”
The motion for free weekend parking in the second half of December and first half of January was defeated, with Crs Limnios, Green and Harley voting in its favour.
Cr Janet Davidson’s alternative motion, for free weekend parking in the first half of January, was passed unanimously.
As a result, on January 7-8 and 14-15 there will be a flat $5 parking fee in two inner CBD carparks and free parking at four outer CBD carparks with CAT bus access to the inner CBD.