Tonight I was a guest at the Environment and Community Committee.
There were a lot of people in the audience and it was a heated meeting; then again it always was going to be. Parking is an extremely emotive issue.
What made the situation worse, was the attitude and position of the opposition councillors.
When I led the opposition, if we opposed an issue we always offered a suggestion for what we would do instead, or how else we would solve the problem. I think that’s the role of a responsible opposition and it gives the public a chance to know what your party “thinks” on issues.
Tonight we heard a lot about what the liberals don’t like, a lot about what they are against, but nothing positive in it’s place. No suggestions. No alternatives. Just abuse to the administration.
I shouldn’t be surprised really; it’s what they did on budget night too. Criticise but offer no alternative.
What the Conservative Councillors did tonight, was to explain in detail why we have the problems with car parking that we do, why enforcement is needed and what we did with the consultation responses received.
We listened. For the local shopping areas we suggested an hour of free parking. We suggested creating dedicated spaces for businesses and that their staff could have annual permits, for less than £1 a week. We have even started to create extra car parking for businesses in a disused council depot area.
Not everyone was happy, but not everyone ever was going to be on such an emotive subject, but we showed that we were willing to listen to people.
Monday afternoon was spent being fed back the results of the consultation into parking changes and charges that we have just conducted.
Now car parking is always an emotive subject to most people. And I admit sometimes I can be a bit dispassionate about these issues as a non driver, which is why when thinking about such items I always like to have other people to bounce ideas off. In this instance both my Deputy Leader Simon Carter and the Chairman of the Environment and Community Committee Eddie Johnson.
We had consulted originally on 20p for first half hour, but had said at the launch of the consultation that we ourselves favoured the first half hour being free. Having read the results of the consultation there is clearly the need for a period of time to be free or low cost, so that people are able to nip to their local shopping areas and buy a loaf of bread and some milk, grab lunch or put a bet on; all the sorts of things that people do at a local shopping areas. It was also clear that there were people who were abusing the parking at the moment, for whom steeper longer term parking charges are needed to dissuade them away from these parking areas.
So in the end we have settled on making the first hour free, which should enable any one to grab a few bits even if their mobility is severely restricted, and I hope people will be happy with. We have also suggested making the charge for between one and two hours parking 60p, with progressively steeper charges for over two hours.
I am sure not everyone will be happy but I don’t think when you talk about car parking charges everyone ever is.
For me though its important that we have listened to the consultation.