Apology for wrong meter-profit claim

Richard Walls
Richard Walls
The chairman of the Dunedin City Council's finance and strategy committee has apologised after incorrectly claiming a $2 million profit from parking meters was ring-fenced.

When contacted yesterday, Cr Richard Walls agreed the comment was wrong, after the Otago Daily Times earlier this month revealed the council's $2 million profit from parking meters was available to cover other budget deficits and offset rates.

"I accept that and I accept I made a mistake in saying it was still ring-fenced.

"I don't mind saying I was wrong," he said.

His admission comes after, writing on the ODT website in July last year, Cr Walls said parking revenue was "ring-fenced and spent on the provision of off-street parking".

"It is not used to fund anything else."

Yesterday, Cr Walls said he had been told by council staff, at a finance and strategy committee meeting last year, the money was ring-fenced, when what was meant was the money was "virtually" ring-fenced.

That meant any surplus from parking meters would usually be spent on related activities, such as a new parking building or offsetting a budget deficit within another area of the council's parking operation.

The spending also had to remain within annual plan budgets approved by councillors, he said.

However, staff could seek approval from councillors to use the money in some other way, such as helping pay for the Forsyth Barr Stadium or a new library, although any significant changes would require public consultation, he said.

"Staff just can't take money and spend it on unrelated activities. There are checks and balances there and the elected members do have the ultimate decision."

Cr Walls said whether the $2 million buffer built into the council's parking-meter budgets was too large was "a legitimate matter for debate", but he supported using the surplus to cover the cost of other parking activities.

However, he also believed parking-meter revenue should not be "rorted" to help pay for other council activities or offset rates.

"If someone came before council and said we need to raise parking fees just to get revenue ... I would be totally against it.

"The principle of ring-fencing still holds."

Deputy mayor Syd Brown, the chairman of the council's parking review working party, has asked for a report on the council's roading programme, including the $2 million parking-meter surplus.

- chris.morris@odt.co.nz


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