Free parking in Portlaoise for the three Saturdays leading up to Christmas has been sought by local Councillors.
Fine Gael Councillor Mary Sweeney had initially sought free parking for the entire Christmas period, however, following consultation with Portlaoise Downtown Traders, she modified her request to ‘two hours of free parking’.
However, from a revenue perspective for the County Council, Director of Services Simon Walton said that there would be no difference to the council coffers between two hours and completely free parking because the majority of people would not stay any longer than two hours anyway.
He said: “In advising members om matters framing Laois County Council’s Budget for 2021, details were published illustrating the very significant shortfalls in various income streams to Laois County Council in 2020.
“Similarly, Laois County Council incurred significant additional and unbudgeted costs in 2020 in responding to Covid-19 issues.
“On the specific issue of car parkin income, 2020 budgeted income is €549,000 compared to the likely outturn income of circa €300,000.
“Accordingly, there are no proposals for Laois County Council to provide free parking for the Christmas period.”
In response, Cllr Mary Sweeney said that her proposal was solely about increasing footfall and business for the traders.
Cllrs Willie Aird, Caroline Dwane Stanley and Catherine Fitzgerald said that free parking on a Saturday in the weeks leading up to Christmas had been in place for the last number of years.
And they sought that this would continue. Director of Services Simon Walton said he would discuss the issue with Council management and inform Councillors of the decision.
While Cllr Noel Tuohy also called on Mr Walton to instruct his traffic wardens to go easy on people this Christmas.
He said: “It is the season of good will and people have been through a lot this year.
“So I would ask that some flexibility can be shown where possible.”
Mr Walton said that he would do this.