Councillors reject call for standardisation of parking charges
"If you can afford to live in Chiswick, you can afford to pay more for your parking permit"
Last night I attended Hounslow's Overview and Scrutiny Panel which met to discuss a report on parking policies. The report had been "called in" because both the Conservative and Liberal Democrat groups had objected to the differential parking policies employed by the borough.
Council Officer, Fred Robinson, provided some figures, but there were a number of significant errors in them - Bedford Park CPZ was included in the Brentford totals and, as before, the costs were apportioned to each area in proportion to the income.
Also, he tried to persuade Councillors to take account of a one-off exercise where a number old debts were passed to a collection firm, which would have inflated the income figures. 54% of the income from this exercise came from Chiswick but he was unable to break down the other 46%.
Councillors were not convinced that the figures were even remotely reliable and Cllr Lamey (in the chair) was scathing about the lack of useful information that they had asked for a week earlier.
Following the meeting I asked for a copy of the figures but were told they are "exempt". The Council are considering this decision and may release the data for publication at a later date.
At a previous meeting, Head of Street Management and Public Protection, Suresh Kamath had suggested that Chiswick's higher charge was justified because enforcement costs in Chiswick were higher. Even though Cllr Cadbury denied that, and reminded the meeting that Suresh has been at LBH for less than a year, the suggestion somehow persisted. She maintained that the reason was due to the start-up costs of the "Chiswick scheme" and that as those costs had been recovered, it was now possible to reduce the charge by £5, on top of the £5 reduction 18 months ago. She didn't mention that the "Chiswick Scheme" was the East Chiswick CPZ which was installed 5 years ago.
Cllr Morgan-Watts seemed convinced that there was no reason for Chiswick to pay more. He also voiced the opinion that scrutiny of the Executive was "a waste of time" because the Executive had never changed a decision as a result of a scrutiny recommendation. Cllr Cadbury denied that they simply ignored the recommendations. She noted that she had been involved in 4 of the 5 call-ins.
Cllr Lamey said "If you can afford to live in Chiswick, you can afford to pay more for your parking permit. I can't believe that anyone suffers hardship as a result of the higher charge" She pointed out that Council flats normally have off street parking and that she supported differential charging because the high demand for parking in Chiswick caused terrible parking problems. Residents in Brentford are also required to pay a higher parking charge than elsewhere in the borough.
According to the Committee Clerk Mike Smith the call-in fell (i.e. the panel decided not to recommend changes to the report) because the majority were not opposed to the differential charging and accepted that the intention was to reduce the differential in the future. I suspect that only Cllr Barwood and Morgan-Watts were opposed to the differential and that the other three Cllrs (all Lab) were in favour - note that party politics is not supposed to be a part of the scrutiny process. If there was a vote taken I didn't notice it, and two of the three Labour councillors didn't say anything other than to ask a question to Ruth Cadbury.
The meeting did not cover the subject of visitor's parking permits which some local residents hoped would be discussed.
One of the Labour councillors present thought that privatisation was being discussed, and was reminded by the chair that "we did that last week".
At last week's Overview and Scrutiny meeting, councillors sent the report about privatising the parking service back to the Executive, with a recommendation that an in-house bid be allowed.
On Tuesday the Executive reaffirmed their original decision not to allow an in-house bid because "it would be pointless". The discussions at this meeting are available to view on-line via web cast on the Council's web site.
November 8, 2003