This is the column I wrote for the Ham & High last week:
Ever since I took my first step into elected politics – when I became Leader of the Opposition of the first ever LibDem Group (group of then three – now twenty-three) on Haringey Council in 1998 – parking has been the local issue that has so often stirred local people to activism.
Much of the angst around parking has been less about whether or not there is a need for some parking controls but far more about the fear that Haringey’s Labour council will not listen properly to local people and will simply push through their proposals like a juggernaut regardless of what local people say and sometimes in the teeth of the results of consultations. Additionally – there has always been an undercurrent of belief that Haringey uses parking charges as a means of revenue raising rather than as a means to ensure good management of parking – which should be their only purpose.
As someone who believes that we have to manage scarce resources, in this case there being more people wanting to park in many places than there are spaces to fit – I am also someone who believes exactly that – it has to be about enabling parking, about traffic flow and about safety – not about the money.
So no surprise then – that Haringey at this desperately hard time both for individuals and businesses – announces that they are going to raise parking charges – and not by a small sum. In Crouch End and Muswell Hill, for example, charges are proposed to rise from £1.40 per hour – to £3.00 per hour.
So my Liberal Democrat colleagues on Haringey Council have acted swiftly to ‘call-in’ this decision. This happens when the cabinet (Labour) have made a decision on which the opposition (Liberal Democrat) has substantive grounds to challenge that decision. This ‘call-in’ will have been heard at the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
I very much hope they see sense in that there cannot be a worse time to raise charges and put our local high streets under even more economic pressure than they already are. Cllr Lyn Weber, who leads for us on environmental issues and will lead the challenge to the decision, has been out and about talking to local traders who are devastated at these poorly timed proposals.
Haringey Labour are arguing that this is to bring our local parking charges in line with other parts of London. However – these are our local high streets – not Westminster or Knightsbridge! We need our local shops to do well – as they are at the heart of our communities.
Any call in has to have, as I said, substantive grounds on which to raise such a challenge. In this case the Liberal Democrats challenges are that:
– The Council has failed to carry out a full impact assessment to ascertain the affects of the increases in parking charges on local independent shops and businesses.
– The Council has failed to consult with local businesses and traders on the proposals.
– The proposals are contrary to the Council’s priority to achieve a “thriving Haringey” by tackling “decline, attract growth and create a more vibrant local economy.”
– Proposals to increase charges for pay and display parking will reduce the number of shoppers using parking in Haringey’s town centres, cause local businesses and shops to lose business and take money out of the local economy.
– Proposals to increase the banding of pay and display parking bays charges in Muswell Hill, Crouch End and Green Lanes from medium to high use will result in a 114% increase in the charge and make shopping in these areas less attractive.
Let’s hope that Labour and their officers understood how damaging their proposals are and dropped the proposals.
That would be a good Christmas present – and very timely!