Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Cornwall Council's parking charges displays utter contempt for motorists, localism and reality (yet again)

Next week, Cornwall's cabinet will debate the proposed parking charges for next year. Their draft shows utter contempt for motorists, for localism and for reality. But as this is the third year with such problems I suppose we should be used to them by now.

Over the course of the last few months, the parking panel has traveled to all the different parts of Cornwall to ask about what charges local people would like to see. There was the caveat that they wanted the new charges to raise at least as much as the current ones. We could dispute the elasticity of demand for such a charging scale, but at least they listened.

So various ideas were proposed and costed and, although not perfect, they are getting gradually better.

But the final proposals don't suggest the acceptance of these charges. They want to add an additional 3.2% for inflation. As the minimum increase is 10p, it means that some charges will be increased by far more than inflation.

The additional increase wasn't suggested to local councillors who may well have come to very different conclusions if they had known. So it's contempt for any concept of localism. But what should we expect from a department which high-handedly refused to attend a local meeting to discuss parking charges in Launceston despite it being a constitutional requirement that they do so?

It also shows contempt for reality. This is exactly the same as happened last year. Officers saw a shortfall in the budget and decided to try to make it up by increasing costs. What happened instead was they created an even bigger funding gap and had to be bailed out twice in a single year. The truth is that if parking charges are too high then drivers simply won't use Cornwall Council car parks.

Finally, it's worth pointing out that the trial £200 season ticket deal in Launceston ended on October 31st. It was a success for local drivers - who got a fair deal - for local residents - who got commuters out of their streets - and for Cornwall Council - who made more money than they were doing from the high priced tickets. But despite these successes, the price has gone back up to £470. I've been asking the council to make the deal permanent, but I can't get an answer and there is nothing on the subject in the paper going to Cabinet.

The new Cabinet Member for Parking, Bert Biscoe, came to Launceston to discuss charges with myself and Sasha Gillard-Loft last week. When he left I got the impression that he understood where we were coming from. However this paper shows that his officers still don't get it and I very much hope he can get a grip on his department soon.

Liberal Democrats will institute a fair deal for drivers and for town centres. We'll cut parking charges back to sensible levels and we are confident that this will bring shoppers back to our towns. Parking should be a service, not a business.

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