I know it’s stating the obvious but: the council provides services for residents. That’s what it’s here for. Sadly, chronic underfunding from central Government means councils of all types, all political persuasions, all over the country, are facing bankruptcy. The Forest of Dean is no different.

In just three years’ time FoDDC will be £3 million short of what it needs to deliver services – unless we take some financially responsible decisions now. I’m determined to ensure we can continue to provide services, like the parking service, for years to come.

By law, the council has to provide certain services; like housing, homelessness prevention, waste collection and recycling. When councils run out of money they are forced to cut the services they don’t have to provide by law. They are forced to stop loss-making activities and to sell things off… like car parks.

In other words, if we don’t take responsibility for sorting out the finances now – something this administration is committed to doing–our council car parks will sooner or later be sold off and potentially end up run by private companies.

No free spaces, no low-cost permits, no proper maintenance. The car parks would become a profit-making machine. Not a thought spared for the needs of local residents and businesses.

That’s the future we are trying to avoid – by making some difficult decisions now.

The consultation on the budget is profoundly influencing what the final parking charges scheme will look like. It’s been really helpful to hear about people’s individual circumstances across the district in relation to parking; their concerns and ideas. In the light of these responses, I’m hoping we can put together a charging scheme which, combined with a massive increase of free spaces, will better support local residents and businesses, and enable us to continue doing so for years to come.

That support for residents and businesses is the reason the council provides the parking service. And that’s what it is – a service. It’s not a profits-driven business, it’s a service. Which is why there are, and will continue to be, both free spaces and cheap season tickets.

I think it’s vital the service continues.

There are councillors demanding there should be no increase in parking charges. They say we should continue to run the service at a loss – that the money to pay for the service year on year should be found… “umm… from somewhere else.” It’s argued that the support the car parks provide is so important that the service needs to be subsidised.

I have some sympathy with the idea. There’s just one big problem. It could actually be setting up a nightmare for the Forest of Dean which would begin to become reality in just a few years’ time. The nightmare of privatisation.