Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Abolition of Parking Panel

Cornwall Council's cabinet has decided to abolish the panel which looks at the issue of parking - it seems because the panel members (and chairman) have disagreed with the official cabinet line once too often.

I won't pretend to have always agreed with the Parking Panel. I think the new charges are ridiculous and will kill town centres. But I accept that they have gone about their work diligently and have been hamstrung by the changes to their remit imposed on them by the Cabinet. The key reason for the huge rises in Launceston - the demand by Cabinet that parking makes a certain profit and that the charges across Cornwall should be broadly equal - were imposed by the Cabinet.

The current work programme of the Panel is focussed on issues such as parking enforcement, waiting times and parking outside schools. All 'nitty-gritty' issues which require some in-depth work. One of the questions is whether anyone else will have the time to look at these issues in public or whether the work will now be done by officers behind closed doors.

There was considerable anger at today's meeting of the panel, especially at the complete lack of courtesy shown by Cabinet Member Graeme Hicks in failing even to turn up to explain the reasons for the abolition.

So what will replace the Parking Panel? We have no real idea as nobody was able to explain at today's meeting. Perhaps we will get the answer at the next Cabinet meeting. But I suspect that the main workload will fall on officers - hard-working but dealing with issues in secret. The key decisions will be taken by Cabinet members who don't understand the issue. At a recent meeting, Council Leader Alec Robertson insisted that the maximum rise in season tickets would be 10%. That's not true - here they will rise by more than 200% - and it shows a very worrying lack of understanding about a key impact on businesses and residents. And even the Cabinet member is not up to speed. He didn't even know that his budget was facing a £1.8 million shortfall.

Perhaps the real reason for the abolition of the Parking Panel is the independent streak shown by Parking Panel Chairman Cllr Andrew Wallis who has been a frequent critic of the administration. Cornwall Council petty and vindictive? Who'd have thought it?

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