by Nigel Bakhai on 16 April, 2013
Please find below a copy of my speech to the April 2013 council meeting in relation to a debate on increased parking charges for CPZ (Controlled Parking Zone) permits and visitor vouchers:-
Mr Mayor, we all in this chamber should not need reminding that the council’s finances over the last three years has meant that difficult decisions have to be made and priorities set with limited funds available. We in the Lib Dem group have agreed with the council’s decision to protect the most vulnerable groups as one of its key priorities so Adults and Children’s services have largely been protected. However, while Adult and Childrens services may have been spared from an across the board approach to meet the savings targets, other service areas like Transport and the Environment have consequently had to take a larger share of the burden. Back in 2010 the Lib Dem group therefore reluctantly accepted that parking charges needed to rise and called for future increases to be raised in line with inflation to avoid the kind of sizeable rise that this motion refers to.
Since that time, the Tories have not put in an alternative budget to provide any insight into how they would increase income or make savings to cover for the reduction in central government grants. Nationally they have attacked Labour for failing to provide answers to how as they would cut the deficit, but locally they have followed the same hypercritical path of opposing all changes without providing solutions. This is blatantly opposition for opposition’s sake.
This year’s budget approved above inflation rises in the cost of CPZ permits from £77.50 to £80 or from £45 to £50 and visitor vouchers from £3.50 to £4.50 per day as well as a £50 rise in the cost of the season permits at Springbridge Road for the next 3 years. These increases have been justified as being down to cost recovery and the council has set the fees at a level where it expects to recover the full cost of running the service. Just as a comparison, I noticed the council’s charges compare favourably with Conservative controlled London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham who are charging £119 for a 12 month permit and visitors pay up to £1.40 for half an hour although residents can buy a smart visitor’s card which operates like an oyster card.
The Lib dem group want fair not punitive parking charges although we would like to see more investment in cycle and pedestrian facilities or public transport across the borough to encourage people to switch from the private motor car. Indeed, the Lib Dem group put an alternative budget this year that provided an extra £1 million capital investment in roads and pavements. We have heard today from residents of the need to improve pavements in Ealing Common following a number of accidents. As a cyclist I have to say that our roads also need investment given the number of potholes.
However, we accept the main thrust of this motion that parking charges should be used to serve residents not to boost the council coffers and we note that the rise in parking income has resulted in a surplus in the parking account over the last two years. We welcome tonight’s announcement from the portfolio holder that CPZ charges will be frozen next year but we worry that this will lead to potential above inflation rises in the future.