I write regarding new parking charges proposed by the city council on Sundays and Christmas Day.

We clearly have a very complacent and insensitive local council.

First, they are complacent about the existence of flourishing church and faith congregations in the city centre.

By introducing brand new parking charges on Sunday mornings and Christmas Day, they do not recognise this as the existential threat to churches that it is.

READ MORE: The long history of St Michaels Church

The last time this was proposed, the then Leader of the Council actually spoke face-to-face with the Council of Faiths, pleading with them to pick up social issues that the Council could no longer support.

Councillors currently seem ignorant about the enormous contribution churches and other faith groups make to our civic life, and just assume that we can suck up these costs and carry on organising food banks, social care, street pastors and other important functions that relieve the Council of some of its burden.

Additionally, should they want to hold a civic service or some such event in the city centre, they will assume churches will still be available to host one.

Most city centre churches have no parking whatsoever. The greatest threat from these charges relates not only to church attendance, but crucially to the unpaid volunteers who need to be on site before 9am on a Sunday to make services happen.

Charging them £8 each time is likely to stop churches in their tracks and could knock the stuffing out of churches such as ours at St Michael the Archangel in Bugle Street.

The shrinking of Sunday church attendance risks seriously weakening provision in a host of vital civic functions.

Secondly, they seem complacent about their apparently unassailable position at the ballot box.

They assume that because the Tories are in disarray nationally, and a Labour government seems likely (not a bad thing in my view), this will automatically transfer to local government elections.

They need to reflect on the fact that this could do for the Conservatives in Southampton what ULEZ did for them in Uxbridge.

Phil Hand
Assistant Priest
St Michael the Archangel