Thursday, 6 January 2011

The hypocrisy of charging for parking

When I looked at my copy of the Coalville Times today I was very interested to read the front page article entitled 'Politicians call for review of car parking charges'.

Times really do change don't they?

In case you missed it Mr Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government scrapped some parking restrictions introduced by the Labour Government in 2001 principally concerning the limiting of parking spaces to new residential developments to promote other environmentally sustainable travel options.

Somehow, however, Councillor Michael Wyatt (Lib Dem Councillor for Greenhill) has managed to turn the story around in calling for a revision of Council Car Parking Charges.

In a comment to the Coalville Times, Councillor Wyatt says 'Coalville needs a real boost. Some businesses are hanging on by their finger nails, and it's time the district council gave them a helping hand by bringing in more shoppers, and by having a one hour free parking fee, I believe it will encourage new businesses into our town.'

Now lets go back in time to 2004, when the then Labour controlled council introduced parking charges.

At the time the reason given for introducing charges was to deliver a balanced budget and prevent excessive rises in Council Tax (nothing to do with government parking restrictions).

In short the Labour group appreciated that as the car parks cost money to operate it would be best served to charge users directly for parking as opposed to putting up council tax more than was absolutely necessary.

(It should be noted that charging had been resisted by Labour for a number of years but due to particularly difficult contstraints that year it was felt unavoidable.)

The proposals put forward was to charge for parking only at car parks in Coalville and Ashby.

Interestingly the then Tory and Lib-Dem opposition, including Councillor Wyatt, felt that the plans didn't go far enough and put forward an amendment to charge at every car park in the district.

The record, I'm afraid, shows that Councillor Wyatt and his colleagues felt the planned charges were not enough. The truth is that he didn't argue against introducing parking fees but rather sought to extend them!

Now, there is no doubt that parking charges have had an effect on Coalville. However, the fact remains that they were introduced for bona fide financial reasons with levels of support from all parties.

I am sure all of the political groups would ideally like to get rid of parking charges but the question, given the wider economic climate, is 'is it realistic'?

All I would say is let us not try to rewrite history Councillor Wyatt. I appreciate the economic situation might be difficult for you as a local trader but remember you felt the charges didn't go far enough!

(Source: NWLDC Council Minutes Council Minutes 26/02/2004)

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