Harlow Council’s finance boss accuses Asda of handing out parking vouchers “willy-nilly”

Business / Wed 13th Sep 2023 at 06:08am

HARLOW Asda has been accused of handing out parking vouchers “willy nilly” as an example of where the town centre discounted parking arrangements are possibly being breached reports the Local Democracy Reporter.

Harlow Council says it is looking at whether discounted parking vouchers offered by Asda are breaching the terms of the agreement after new council figures show a stark drop in income.

Harlow Council has estimated that parking income for the year will be £170,000 down against the target.

The council says discussions are ongoing with the Water Gardens management team to ensure that the council is maximising its income.

People who spend £5 or more in Asda can claim a refund on their first two hours of parking. There the staff give customers a voucher which can be redeemed at the pay station when they are leaving. People paying for parking online after their visit can not use concession vouchers. There are 1,200 car parking spaces at The Water Gardens which costs 90p up to two hours Monday to Friday and £1.20 on Saturdays.

Councillor James Leppard, portfolio holder for finance and governance, told Harlow cabinet on Thursday, September 7 that part of the income drop is a hangover from Covid restrictions.

But he added the council wanted to ensure the agreements were not sidestepped to the detriment of the council’s income. In the town centre it operates the Post Office Road and Wych Elm car parks. All other car parks are privately operated including the Water Gardens but the council does receive an income under a management arrangement.

The council has said the forecasted large reduction in income from the Water Gardens car park is the most significant of its forecasts. Income forecasts for the year had already been reduced, in line with post-Covid trends.

However, income has fallen short of these reductions largely, it is believed, due to greater use of free parking availability provided by some retailers.

Councillor James Leppard said: “One of the things which has also impacted this is the discounted special concessions offered by some of the retailers. We are checking to be sure that they are complying with the terms of the agreement for Water Gardens.

“We have noticed that Asda have been handing out tickets willy nilly certainly not in the terms and this has been brought to their attention.”

Council leader Dan Swords at the same meeting said: “I am sure it is speculation about a retail store doing such a thing.”

A council report said income projections from the Harvey Centre have been exceeded with slightly better occupancy than forecast and also higher income from the cinema.

However, it is looking carefully at whether there have been any breaches of the agreement. A council spokesperson “We want to have discussions with the Water Gardens Management Team to ensure that the arrangements regarding free car parking periods are being applied by the retailers as set out in the management agreement. This is all part of our ongoing work to ensure that the council is maximising its income at a time when we are seeing activity begin to return to pre-Covid levels in the car parks.”

A spokesperson for Asda said: “Asda Harlow customers that spend a minimum of £5 in-store are entitled to two hours of free parking. Shoppers are required to take their receipts to the customer service desk to receive an exemption ticket.”

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36 Comments for Harlow Council’s finance boss accuses Asda of handing out parking vouchers “willy-nilly”:

David Forman
2023-09-13 07:32:08

With the cost of living crisis shoppers are obviously getting smart and using money saving techniques including full use of free parking vouchers. Is councillor Leppard accusing ASDA shoppers of knowingly using free parking vouchers they are not entitled to? If so, where is his evidence?

Kim Oconnor
2023-09-13 08:03:53

God forbid that we should get anything free . We'll said David.

Mark Lavender
2023-09-13 09:58:06

Willy-nilly is such a flippant phrase. Is there any granular details to back this gripe short of Harlow Council's clunking fist of THIS IS HOW MUCH WE THINK IT'S COSTING US!!! As previous contributors have intimated, is this really at the forefront of shoppers' minds when they purchase their groceries? It is not as if they are the ones who bought the Harvey Centre and its growing vacant floorspace with council tax payers' money or anything...

Guy Flegman
2023-09-13 11:22:46

The reason town centres are dying is because you have to pay to park, where as retail parks are free to park. Make parking free and easy and town centres will thrive.

2023-09-13 12:37:18

Parking in the town centre should be free, (actually looking at the state of it we should be paid to park there). The only way to create a booming town centre is to attract people, remove all the parking charges.

2023-09-13 12:44:22

I agree-very rarely use Asda, always Sainsburys that I prefer, when I do use Asda, the vouchers are just left in piles by exit of self service for anyone to walk past and grab ! I’m my opinion it’s theft, the rules are there, it’s only a £5 spend but some low lifes think they are better and above the law and any rules!!!! Asda need staff to keep with themselves and hand out when receipts are shown - SIMPLES

2023-09-13 12:51:59

Are you poor thing parking should be free it will boast the economy off the town there should only be restrictions on people who take the piss maybe a fee arter say 6 hours not a fine. As cineworld surly found out when they had all seats £3 I'm sure that was the most money they made in a long time 🤗

2023-09-13 12:55:50

Nick take a long look at whot you just said maybe you should go down there and lock them all up you sad person 😭

2023-09-13 13:05:14

Nothing to do with the fact that the Harvey Centre had a whole floor that couldn’t be used for nearly a year. I stopped using the car park at a weekend as I was fed up not being able to get a space and did some shopping in Asda.

Stephen Siggers
2023-09-13 14:10:26

How ridiculous! Parking should be free. And perhaps people are using ALDI and LIDL where the parking is free.

2023-09-13 14:16:10

Sadly even after spending a considerable amount in Asda and receiving a voucher, it very often doesn’t work and I have to pay anyway.

2023-09-13 15:01:44

I would have thought the biggest loss in car park revenue would have been down to the failed new flooring in the Harvey centre car park, the wych elm car park being effected by the building works and putting up prices. In regards to Asda,I have NEVER been given a ticket by Asda unless I met the rules. This smacks of trying to blame others rather than the poor quality management by the current council. One last thing that may be uncomfortable but honest. Ever since Harlow started being flooded with London overspill, the town centre has changed. It is no longer safe during the day time let alone the evening. Even when I've visited the town, which so far is only 3 times this year, I've never gone further than Primark. North of that towards the market place and the old cinema is like no mans land. Is there a reason why parking revenue is down? Yes but it's nothing to do with Asda and everything to do with the council.

Luke Burton
2023-09-13 15:20:54

I bet Councillors can expense anything including parking unlike us proles.

2023-09-13 16:27:27

What a load of nonsense! The council in Harlow is a complete joke im afraid! Asda has become very expensive over the last 2 years! on top of that how many shops are now eateries and not clothing etc what everyone wishes! Pe Fact! people will go where the cheapest and best value is im afraid!

Jonathan Vogel
2023-09-13 16:50:57

tough luck Harlow council , time councillors had a pay drop and no expenses

Michaella Pizey
2023-09-13 17:07:11

Got a parking fine even though I used the free ticket after shopping at Asda took over a month to get it sorted and I had proof on my bank account but people who pay cash for there shopping don’t always keep there bills

2023-09-13 17:53:41

I remember free parking there for decades.

2023-09-13 18:15:44

What more do Harlow council want of the public, got smoking fines walking around pulling pesting and following you, traffic wardens doing same instead mend potholes

2023-09-13 19:10:38

Just a question. Do Harlow Council staff get free parking in that section especially for them?? Just wondering

2023-09-13 19:29:10

Council staff have to pay for the parking

2023-09-13 19:59:35

A man without data is merely a man with an opinion! I stopped using Asda a few years ago because of the faff of paying for parking. So much easier to go to another supermarket with free parking and competitive prices or cheaper than Asda. With the council’s recent purchase of the Harvey Centre, making the parking cheaper or even free would make the town centre more attractive to shoppers and perspective retailers. Lots of units available in the Harvey Centre that would be in demand. £170k loss from parking then becomes small beer in comparison to additional income from unit rentals.

Louise Spiller
2023-09-13 20:06:25

I was given a parking fine when I definitely paid that day with the voucher I received when I purchased over £5 of goods from asda. I Felt like I had no choice to pay as I opted for the email receipt which I never received so I had no choice

Sam Barnard
2023-09-13 20:29:35

Cm235px cooking oil and in

2023-09-13 20:49:09

Harlow Town center was designed as a pedestrianised shopping center with free parking for all. The council are money grabbing and it was never how it was supposed to be. Asda staff recognise the cost of living crisis they live it. You are asking people paid just over minimum wage to charge people who can only afford £5 worth of shopping to pay 90p to park. Get your head out of the sand.

2023-09-13 21:26:05

Money grabbing councillors who don't give a damn about the electorate. The cost of running a car is horrendous now. Can't even use the buses as they are all being cut. Roll on the elections and hope they all get booted out.

2023-09-13 21:29:37

What an absolute joke! Start enticing people into town. Make parking free. Bad enough residents of areas close to town have to pay a yearly fee to park outside their own homes!!

2023-09-14 04:48:02

Well, why are you thinking , of taking from the poor shoppers, why can you not be innovative and see what you can do with the empty buildings in the town centre and around harlow and create revenue from there. You waste a lot of money with silly regeneration projects, you had the hideous coloured vases around the square in the town centre then took them out and put benches then paved it again all which costs alot of money, this is just to name a few.There are loads of things you can do to generate income instead of punshing drivers. If people can not park they not shop and businesses will see no point in trading, close that will be another line of revenue lost- come on council Bosses think better.

2023-09-14 06:05:33

Maybe our fine councillor James Leppard should concern himself more with the disgusting condition of the roads, especially around the Harvey Centre. Third World comes to mind.

Sue Holland
2023-09-14 06:38:28

I got a voucher and the machine told me it had already been used. Figure that out!!

2023-09-14 08:59:40

I totally agree with Seamus. The town is unsafe, since the overspill from London etc. Its not a nice place to shop anymore. The market square just seems to be where people loiter when they've had a season drinking and I wouldn't go down that way if you paid me. Outside primark it looks like something out of Top Boy, with the gangster rap music pumping out of there bluetooth speaker. Council are to blame for the downfall of Harlow Town Centre.

Godfrey the great
2023-09-14 10:11:02

Odd that Harlow council never mentioned the design flaw in the car park itself but happily fleece shoppers from it ... council couldn't be more dodgy if it tried

Glenn Steadman
2023-09-14 16:01:17

Why don't the Council give up the free parking for staff and councillors, that would boost their coffers?

james nicholson
2023-09-14 16:58:04

Ahhh yes, harlow Council on the warpath to make more money. Are the kickbacks from the HGGT project not enough to finance your expense accounts and bin parties? STFU and start managing the town correctly, we pay taxes and rents to you, is that not enough???? I am disabled and just got turned down for reasonable adaptations instead being told to move. Nevermind the fact I have friends nearby and its a decent area. If your council is that broke just admit you fecked up

Kim Oconnor
2023-09-15 08:45:45

Well James Leppard. As I've said to you before, you know not, of what's happening on your own door step. You walked straight into this. You want to bring people into the town, then introduce free parking.. stop this money grabbing nonsense.

Sarah Mathewson
2023-09-16 08:10:16

I don't even drive and this is a JOKE. Harlow council is a JOKE. Don't ever want to help anyone just constantly wanting money. Look at the ABSOLUTE STATE of the town and you are moaning that you aren't getting enough money?? Instead of thinking how to make more money why don't you actually start putting harlows residents and shoppers first and give incentives for more people to want to come and shop and be a part of our town, offer free parking and youll see a massive rise in shoppers. YOU ARE AN EMBARRASSMENT to the residents.

2023-09-19 14:11:27

I went to ASDA this morning after the gym, bought shopping paying more than £5. I did not get a bag nor receipt (help the environment and all that) and was only told afterwards if you don't get a receipt then you don't get a voucher. Not only was it blaringly obvious that the items I bought would have met the minimum spend, but I paid by phone and so was able to electronically show the exact amount spent, at the exact time AND THAT WAS STILL NOT SUFFICIENT. So greedy and wasting paper too, what a great idea. Parking there is a faff at the best of times, but this is so long winded. Definitely puts you off bothering to go to the town at all, just a bit of an un-needed nightmare. Likely see a drop in people using the carpark and ASDA! Will also be changing gyms so that I don't need to pay to park every time I go.

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