PERTH Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi has flagged a possible trial of free parking in the city to boost retail during the January downturn.
The proposal emerged during debate around a motion from Deputy Lord Mayor James Limnios to provide free parking on the weekend this December to help local traders compete with suburban shopping centres for the Christmas spending spike.
Councillor Limnios said the City harvests $90 million in revenue from parking each year and could afford to trial free weekend parking between 10am and 7pm in December to encourage shoppers.
“The City is facing its most challenging economic climate in more than 15 years,” he said.
“Office vacancy rates have hit 20 per cent… the State Government is moving 1500 public servants out of the city… the City of Perth must act to ensure businesses can flourish.”
The Deputy Lord Mayor said while City staff projected $742,000 would be lost to the City if the trial went ahead, the return on the investment in terms of boosting trade would far outstrip the loss.
“For each dollar in foregone revenue for the City there will be between $14.30 and $21 spent in the city,” he said.
Cr Jemma Green spoke in favour of the motion.
Cr Jim Adamos observed that people also come into the City for cultural events and other forms of entertainment, and would use the free parking.
He raised concerns about the prospect of significantly increased traffic congestion and noted there were “a lot of factors” behind the slump in city trading, including the current economic climate and the rise of online shopping.
“If we got this motion earlier we could have given it more consideration,” he said.
Cr Judy McEvoy condemned the motion as “abhorrent” and accused the Deputy Lord Mayor of “populism”.
Cr McEvoy also rhetorically asked if Cr Limnios had reduced the rents on properties he owns.
Cr Limnios fired back that rents were down “20 to 30 per cent”.
Lord Mayor Scaffidi moved a procedural motion to have the item go to a committee for discussion.
The Lord Mayor said people were drawn to the City for “far more” than shopping.
“It’s the internationally known retailers, the great amenity, the events… The current issue is not competing with new suburban developments, it is about competing for fewer dollars and online shopping,” she said.
“How do we help retailers? We owe it to ourselves to be the best city we can be.”
Ms Scaffidi said January was the month in which retail traders would be in greater need of support.
“Why not three hours (parking) for free in the first two weeks of January when sales start to lag?” she suggested.
All members of council apart from the Deputy Lord Mayor voted in favour of sending the matter to committee.