Last night as you would expect I was at the Extraordinary Full Council meeting to debate the ‘New Off Street Nuneaton and Bedworth Parking Places Order 2011’. This might seem innocuous enough but contained within it are two separate increases in car parking charges. Rather than bring up the various items separately they bring in one cover all ‘Order’ to cover several changes in one vote. Had they taken the items individually it could well have been that there would be agreement on most of them.
The first increase is to pass on the increase in VAT from 17.5% to 20% on the car parks. The second increase is to change the tariff for the first hour of car parking within the borough, not just by the increase in VAT but, from eighty pence to one pound.
Local politics is not like that though so the date for the clash was set and the four areas in chamber were represented. The debate began with only one independent missing and one Conservative conflicted out by prejudicial interest in the only agenda item.
The public gallery was empty apart from the wife of one councillor (you really should come and see what your councillors get up to. Many of you would be surprised).
When my turn to speak came around I said that I believe that increases in fuel prices over recent months, though not under the control of the borough council, have had a disproportionately negative effect upon the ability of our poorer residents to make use of the town centres, and that if my theory was correct there would be two easily measurable signs. Firstly the use of car parks at the present charge of eighty pence would have declined and secondly that people would be shopping for their ‘essential bits and bobs’ in their local shops. (This is not something that I am against, see this link about supporting your local shops but if I am correct it is evidence that the town centres are being used less).
I then evidenced my first point on car park use by stating that it has very recently been reported in the local newspapers that the largest car park in Nuneaton will be closed on Sundays and Bank Holidays because it is underused. For my point about people buying locally items that they previously would have bought in town I told the chamber that I have asked several shopkeepers from outside the town centre if they are selling more general goods and groceries than a year ago (by more than the obvious VAT and general price increases) and they said yes!
I concluded by saying that with evidence to show that the town centres being used less was already affecting our lower income residents i can accept no case to raise the charge for the first hour of parking from eighty pence to one pound.
To my way of thinking the argument as presented in the three paragraphs above makes sense. Furthermore if there were any inaccuracies in it I would expect both of the major groups to point them out with relish at the first opportunity. That type of thing is almost a sport in council chambers the length and breadth of the land. No one found fault with my submissions and I received no criticism.
I voted against the proposals but unfortunately all of the Labour members were in chamber and the independent voted with them so the proposal was passed with the vote split eighteen for and fourteen against.
A local example of the Labour party knowingly disadvantaging the very voters that they take for granted on polling day.