TODAY the Daily Echo can reveal the cost of shutting a city centre car park at night.

As reported Grosvenor Square car park was closed by city chiefs at night to stop rough sleepers using it after drivers complained of the unsafe environment.

Now information released by Southampton City Council shows that the scheme costs £56,160 a year – and that city homelessness chiefs are planning on rolling it out to five more car parks.

But the plan has come under fire from opposition candidates, who say it’s “not the right solution” and that SCC has not thoroughly considered all the options.

A Freedom of Information request revealed that £1,680 a month was paid to Kestrel Guards Ltd to implement “security sweeps” in the Grosvenor Square car park.

The FoI request also revealed that £3,000 a month is spent on cleaning the car park.

Lib Dem Bargate ward candidate Ben Curd says the money could be spent on beds and support staff instead.

Mr Curd said: “If the scheme were to be extended to the council’s five multi-storey car parks this could result in a monthly expenditure of £8,400.

“After contacting several national and local charities it has come to our attention that this level of expenditure could pay for three full time support, case or hostel workers or drug rehabilitation of three months residential for 14 individuals per annum.”

He added: “You would have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by the current situation. We need to look properly at the options and consider the impact of each option.”

“This is a solution but I don’t think it’s the right solution.

“Cllr Shields said there was help during the day but there weren’t any support workers with the security guards at night.

“He didn’t have available the numbers of people who were removed.

“I’m disappointed that from what I know they haven’t looked at whether these funds could be spent elsewhere - to the extent that I would have expected them to have been done.”

But city car parks chief Cllr Jacqui Rayment said money spent on securing the car parks could not be spent on dealing with homelessness or rough sleepers - and that the £3,000 on cleaning was due to “issues in some of our car parks.”

She said: “Because we have had issues in some of our car parks we have changed the cleaning regime. Any money spent on securing and cleaning car parks comes out of the car parking maintenance budget.

“We can’t just spend x money on y just because we feel like it. The money that Cllr Shields spends on drugs and homelessness comes out of his budget.”

“We have a number of people in the city who pay a substantial amount of money to park in a secure and safe clean environment.

“More people are using it now during the day because they know that the car park will be safe and free from excrement.”

Trevor Pickup, CEO of homelessness charity the Society of St James, said Mr Curd’s “mathematics were correct” but added that the charity doesn’t get involved in party politics.

He said: “Obviously we would love more money to to be made available to support staff but I understand that the council needs to respond to public concerns about conditions in car parks.”

Cllr Shields said: “It would be erroneous to conclude, as Ben Curd does, from his limited knowledge of the detailed working of the Council and our partners in this field that the we have failed to consider all available options.”

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