Friday, June 25, 2010

As expected: HDC to charge for car parks.

As predicted, the Conservative run HDC Cabinet has gone ahead with the imposition of car parking charges. With a £4.7 million deficit and £6.1 million in cuts I didn't think they would do otherwise. As the main point, how would you replace the expected loss of income by not going ahead, wasn't answered by the protesters. Nor could it be as the Conservatives don't want to talk about the deficit.

HDC had earlier presented 2 petitions. Whatever happened to the Conservative petition? The 2 petitions contained 1,548 signatures and 645 were disregarded by HDC. Again these didn't argue where the axe could fall instead.

The Cabinet seemed to be a few short on the night. Three members abstained and four members voted it through.

What did the powerless St Neots Conservative Councillors Group do to stop this. Well, they helped by passing the budget in the first place. Essentially agreed with this at the start.

So how did the St Neots Conservative Councillors Group do?

Cllr Barry Chapman, new Conservative on the District Council says:

"The car park charges will damage St Neots." - See later.
Car Park would have an impact on local workers on the minimum wage. - Er..If they can run a car they can pay for car parking charges. Otherwise walk.
cause further pollution in the High Street - Like all the extra pollution at the Super Clinic?
lead to extra vehicles in the town centre. - Traffic jams outside the Super Clinic?
The car park was for a leisure facility, Riverside Park, has an impact on users. - Did Cllr Chapman oppose charging at Hinchingbrooke? No, he didn't.

Cllr Bob Farrer (said he would resign if all this went through - it has and he hasn't)

Informs us it is a leisure car park. - Hinchingbrooke will now be 50 pence an hour.
Charges will have an adverse effect on the Town Council. - See later.
Angry that local councillors were not involved from the beginning - except they were.

So what has the opposition Liberal Democrats got to say about all this.

Cllr Thorpe, Town Mayor, (also Deputy Leader of the HDC Liberal Democrat Group) was "appalled" and added "They don't care about the people of St Neots. They only car about getting extra money into their coffers." And where would you find the money?

The award for the Sound of sanity (also the see later part) goes to John Davies when he says: "But they (the retailers) were also realistic. I know the District Council has always been supportive of Town Centres and retail, which just shows how serious the current situation is...".

This rumpus is over:
None of the retailers have come forward to take this over an leave it as a free car park. Nor has SNTC or even some of the wealthy Conservative councillors come forward to keep this car park free. None have come forward with any real alternative cuts or funding.

All this just shows how powerless are the useless Overview and Scrutiny Panels are. Also shows just how powerless the St Neots Conservative Councillors Group actually are. No resignations over this issue and all those St Neots Councillors on Cabinet didn't resign from that body either. All this has been one big pantomime by the Conservatives.

Like the row over the Super Clinic, where loads of useless and wild objections were made, the argument of 20 pence an hour look ridiculous to the outside world.


Matt Cornish said...

Yes, it's 20p now. Next year who's to say they wont put it up again. And the year after that again.
Once the flood gates have opened, the council (particularly one with such financial problems) will be tempted to keep increasing it.

I suspect John Davies is correct in his suggestion that the town will be alright.
We may lose another shop or two, we may not. Of course St Neots will survive. But this doesn't help businesses in a time when they need our support.

Regardless of how badly it will affect the town, for me the key issue is how little regard the Cabinet has shown toward the people of St Neots.
I suspected the public consultation was little more than a farce, and so it has proved to be. They were always going to bulldoze it through, whether we had 2,000 signatures or 20,000.
There has been little in the way of explanation as to why these charges are necessary, and the key reason seems to be to keep council tax low.

So as for where else the money could come from, as the paper has suggested before, the savings in council tax per person equates to a few pence per year.
It's an important enough issue and I feel the vast majority of the town would support paying such a small sum each year toward it.

Dave said...

The Council Tax base for St Neots is 10195. I don't know how much is actually costs to provide a car park. Fenland DC provides its car parks for free, but it costs the Council Taxpayer £410,000 to provide these car parks for free. In HDC these car parks generate £560,000 of income over expenses. There are choices to be made over all this. Do you put Council Tax up to pay for "free" parking?

My aim in all this has been to show how powerless and spineless the St Neots political class(especially the Conservatives) are in all this. Also how powerless is the Council structure with Overview and Scrutiny Panels absolutely worthless.

If it only cost a few pennies to run I feel St Neots Town Council would have out of the blocks to take it over. The car parks would still need to be cleaned and looked after and eventually resurfaced.