Councillors in Aberdeen have narrowly voted to slam the brakes on a free evening parking scheme.
The much-lauded Alive after Five scheme has been thrown out with one councillor saying the local authority should not keep “flogging a dead horse”.
Council bosses had hoped the pilot, which launched on October 1, would encourage more people into the city centre in the evenings, after drawing inspiration from a similar initiative in Newcastle.
But the results of the pilot showed that footfall in the city centre was lower between October and December 2018 compared to the previous year.
During a heated discussion in the Town House yesterday, Douglas Lumsden, co-leader of Aberdeen City Council, said: “It’s not improved things. The amount of cars parking in multi-storeys hasn’t really moved.
“It would be wrong to put in more money on a scheme that isn’t working. £80,000 – that’s not insignificant and could be used for other things.
“We should be congratulated that at least we gave it a try.”
Meanwhile, Labour councillor Gordon Graham told councillors they shouldn’t keep “flogging a dead horse”.
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However, opposition colleagues tabled a joint amendment calling for the pilot to continue for a further six months – until September 30.
Liberal Democrat group leader Ian Yuill, who put forward the amendment along with the SNP group, argued that the ruling administration had included a further six months within their budget approved last week.
He said: “It’s not unreasonable that we should have a 12-month trial.
“A trial that last Tuesday you voted for.
“This is the fastest U-turn in history. Let’s do a 12-month trial and see the figures for the 12 months.
“I don’t carry a torch for Alive after Five but it deserves a full 12 months.”
Meanwhile, SNP councillor Bill Cormie, who represents Rosemount, said many of the car parks involved, including the Denburn, would be better used in the summer months.
He said: “I fully support the initiative to add another six months through the summer period and give the night time economy a chance and a boost.
“That type of car parking is more secure in the lighter nights.”
Councillors voted seven to six in favour of stopping the scheme, meaning parking charges will be reintroduced at the five car parks from April 1.
On the U-turn accusation, Mr Lumsden said the administration never had the data at the time they set their budget.
He added: “We’ve got the data now and it’s clear it’s not making a difference.”
Conservative councillor Alan Donnelly added the council should consider other initiatives to bring people into the city centre.
He added: “I’m sad we don’t appear to have the correct initiative to get people back into the city centre. I would have thought it would have had a higher uptake than what it has.”
The scheme offered free parking from 5-8pm at Chapel Street, Denburn, Frederick Street, West North Street and Marischal College council-run car parks.
A report, which was presented to councillors on the operational delivery committee yesterday, said the data had failed to demonstrate the initiative had “any impact” on increasing the footfall in the city centre.
Meanwhile, data from Bon Accord and St Nicholas shopping centres, who also took part in the scheme, said their average occupancy did “not significantly alter”.