“Parking Charge Victory”
As one of the organisers of the “Stop the Parking Tax” campaign in Denton Holme, I am very pleased to learn that Cumbria County Council has put on hold its plans to charge for residents’ parking permits, and I would like to thank everyone who supported the campaign. But I do not think we can be complacent at achieving what the News & Star (18 November 2014) calls “Parking Charge Victory”.
The Council has not abandoned its proposals, merely deferred implementing them until it has sorted out some legal or procedural problems, which Councillor Little says may take 12-18 months. Council Leader Stewart Young also does not say the proposals have been scrapped, only that there will need to be “further public consultation” before they are brought back.
He now says “Having asked local people for their views on these matters, we must listen to them.” Does he think that the public will have different views if the Council decides to “consult” them again in a year’s time? And why did the Council not listen to the public during the last round of consultation on the budget? The Council claimed that 58% of “people” supported charging for residents’ parking permits and only 26% disagreed. But only a small proportion of the people of Cumbria voted in that consultation, and most of those who did, almost certainly did not live in residential parking zones. In the same consultation, the Council admits that more people voted against town centre parking charges than for them, but the Council added those who did not vote to those who were in favour, and declared that the majority were not opposed to the charges.
Councillor Young and his colleagues only “listen” to the people when it suits them, and they distort the results of consultation to support their own plans. John Stevenson MP claims this shows “how out of touch the Labour-run Council have become. I do not think the politicians are speaking to people.” This is rich coming from him. The County Council is now a Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition, but it was previously a Conservative-Labour coalition, and both regimes claimed they had to make cuts and impose charges because of orders from the national government – a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, elected by absolutely no one!
The Council’s retreat on these charges is indeed an achievement for “People Power” (as your editorial states), but the only way to ensure that the Council does not impose the charges at a later date would be to elect councillors who will really represent the people of Cumbria, who are prepared to fight for the resources which the county needs to provide the services which the public has a right to expect – councillors who will oppose central government’s austerity programme and refuse to implement all of the cuts in jobs and services. None of the existing political parties offer candidates pledged to fight for the people, so we have to look for alternatives from within our own local communities.
The Council’s “U-turn” is only a tactical retreat. The people may have won the first round, but the fight is by no means over, so let us keep up the attack.
Grahame Higginson, Denton Holme, Carlisle