Thursday, 16 June 2011

Council to talk to locals about car park charges - only a year too late

Cornwall Council has decided that it will talk to local members and town and parish councils about car parking charges for next year. It's a year too late, but it's a welcome change nonetheless.

This year's charges have caused widespread resentment across Cornwall. I've blogged ad nauseam about how the changes are affecting Launceston, but the story is the same in places like Camborne, Newquay, Helston, Bude and Liskeard.

In deciding how to change prices for the year starting in April 2012, parking panel members will tour Cornwall talking to local councillors and town and parish councils about the car parks in their area.

The tricky bit will be deciding how to make the overall budget and whether that budget is reasonable (I've argued that this year's demand is not, others suggest that a lower parking budget will affect other services). It's no good giving flexibility if that doesn't allow for substantial changes if these are justified.

So whilst the new approach is a step in the right direction, it is not going as far as the Council should consider. We should be looking at what in other areas is called a 'Total Place' solution. Let's look at the effect of parking charges on town centre shops and businesses and on congestion in our streets. We should also consider other services such as public toilets, grass cutting and grit bins and see whether transferring the whole package to a town or parish council could deliver a better service and lead to a more secure income for Cornwall council. Some of this is already planned or promised by the council, but not the whole thing.

The decision to appoint Ray Tovey as the new Cabinet Member for Localism (and the decision to make localism a cabinet portfolio on its own) is a huge step in the direction of recognising the importance of localism as opposed to the one size fits all approach previously. Ray is another of the real good guys within the administration and I hope that we will see much more progress towards giving local people more power over local services.

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