Solva Car Park Loss – National Park Threatens Local Democracy

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In 1995 the Environment Act set out two statutory purposes for the National Parks in England and Wales.

Conserve and enhance the Natural Beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage.

Promote understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of National Parks by the public.

When National Parks carry out these purposes they also have:

‘The duty to seek to foster the economical and social well- being of local communities within the National Parks.’

Last year, 2014, the car park gross revenue was £66,000 and after VAT, and all operational costs were deducted the nett profit of £46,000 was shared 50/50 between Solva Community Council (SCC) and Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority (PCNPA).

PCNPA decided that the share was too generous; it was also looking to install Pay and Display and hand over the management of its car parks to PCC. In a meeting on February 4th the PCC members of the PCNPA management committee resolved that Solva Community Council would continue to manage the Solva Car Park for the 2015 season subject to the revision of the terms of the agreement.

On February 18th, SCC chair Jen Davies, vice chair Josh Phillips, Clerk Bruce Payne and Lyn Jenkins County Councillor met with Gary Meopham the PCNPA Estate Manager, who presented them with a new draft agreement and Agenda, dated February 17th! The tone of the meeting was very confrontational and it was clear that the new agreement was not up for negotiation although Solva Councillors were told that it had 7 days to put in writing any objections. At an extraordinary meeting of the PCNPA management committee to be held on March 4th, SCC was warned that if the management committee did not accept its concerns then the management of the car park would return to the PCNPA for the 2015 season and in 2016, Pay and Display machines would be installed. This would bring in £40,000 a year for the Parks.

Further to the March 4th meeting the best and final offer from the PCNPA is as follows:

The SCC are expected to hand over 100% of the gross takings each week.

PCNPA were responsible for 100% of the VAT and it would make auditing easier.

The sum of £15.000 for expenses given in 8 monthly instalments of £1875 would be paid to the SCC on the first of each month.

SCC would receive 25% of the nett profit which would be based on the gross income, minus the VAT and the £15000.

This would not be paid until the end of the season and after the audit had been completed.

Based on last year’s income:

Nett profit = £66,000 minus the VAT £11,000 and £15000 = £40,000 25% / 75% share = £10,000 for SCC / £30,000 for PCNPA.

However, the average running costs for the last two years have been around £20,000 per annum.

The Attendants were paid £7.65 per hour, which is £1897.20 per 31calendar month

So already the SCC would incur debt. On top of that there are additional operational costs:

Employers National Insurance contributions, public liability insurance, auditing, grass cutting of picnic area, clerks expenses re: banking, invoices, paper work etc.

The PCNPA do not recognise these as expenses.

Solva Community Council has a duty of care for its employees. The £15000 doesn’t even cover the wages which would mean that it would have to borrow from the Precept. The SCC sought professional advice. The PCNPA clearly is responsible for the VAT on 100% of the gross income derived from ticket sales. PCNPA has always had access to ticket sale data on which the VAT is based – there is no ‘legal’ ruling that requires it to take 100% of the gross profit every week/month for auditing purposes. The SCC has always provided the PCNPA with regular financial statements and to borrow from the Precept to cover additional operational costs could be seen as ‘misappropriation of funds.

The PCNPA’s philosophy had nothing to do with sustainability, or the economical and social well-being of a local community. It’s about the fact that Solva car park is now seen to be a very lucrative ‘gravy train ‘ for the PCNPA. PCNPA believe that ‘PAY & DISPLAY’ will bring in £40,000 a year (and that won’t include the enforcement revenue,) PCNPA are hoping that PCC will take on the management; the chances are that PCC will put the operation of the Pay and Display machines out to tender.

It is the view of Solva Community Council that car parking should not be viewed solely as a simple revenue source for the PCNPA and whilst it recognises that PCNPA needs to raise money, PCNPA should also recognise the importance of the need to promote business viability, community sustainability and in accordance with the policy of the Welsh Assembly, support the principle of devolving more powers and fiscal responsibility to local communities.

It’s a sad reflection that apart from the tourists and visitors, the PCNPA has not thought to thank or recognise the good work that the Attendants, the clerk, SCC and the community have done, in promoting this part of the Pembrokeshire National Parks in such a positive and instructive way.

 

The tone of the letter setting out the revised agreement is not acceptable and the inference from a PCNPA employee that there could have been some fiscal impropriety on the part of the clerk and SCC in the way the money was handled is not the way business should be done, especially in a ‘Partnership’. The relationship has therefore become untenable.

It is with much regret and disappointment that Solva Community Council has unanimously rejected the latest proposal and the management of the Car Park was handed back to the PCNPA on the 23rd March 2015.

Many of you have already written to the Chief Executive regarding Pay and Display. SCC would urge as many people to continue the campaign to fight for local democracy, oppose Pay and Display and argue the importance of local democracy and empowerment.

Letters and emails can be addressed to:

Tegryn Jones, Chief Executive PCNPA Llanion Park Pembroke Dock SA72 6DY tegrynj@pembrokeshirecoast.org.uk

Stephen Crabbe, MP

Paul Davies AM

Leighton Andrews Welsh Assembly

PCNPA Management members

Local media

 

Information and Correspondence relating to this matter can be found on the

Solva website under the heading ‘ Community Council’. It will be regularly updated.

Pob Hwyl!

Jenny Davies

Josh Phillips

Jo Griffin

John Price

Jean Reed

Mollie Roach,

Jono Voyce

Sandra Young