Paid Parking Debate
The Paid Parking Debate came to Fenland District Council’s Annual Meeting yesterday in colourful fashion when Cllr Gavin Booth (Liberal Democrat) proposed a motion to rule it out for four years.
I would have liked to vote for Gavin Booth’s motion and had expected to do so. Although there was a whip applied – as I’ve explained many times a whip is not what people think it is. I had leeway to vote against the group if I needed to.
However, Cllr. Chris Boden proposed an amendment to the motion. His amendment spoke of his determination to oppose Paid Parking also and called for a Comprehensive Spending Review to take place which he hoped would provide the evidence to get past the idea permanently. The amendment also confirmed that no sale of parking assets or attempts to introduce paid parking would happen until the Comprehensive Spending Review was complete.
Gavin Booth felt this amendment was illegal because it essentially negated the original motion, but Legal Officers confirmed their opinion that this was incorrect and that the amendment was in order. I think that was an interesting decision, but they are the experts.
Some people have suggested this amendment was a bit of a fudge and I think that is a fair criticism. It did not rule out Paid Parking, and instead appeared to “kick it into the long grass.” Nevertheless I chose to vote for the motion for two reasons. The first was that anything which delays any chance of this crazy policy being proposed is good by me. The second is that I am confident that those of us who oppose Paid Parking will have a wealth of information from the Comprehensive Spending Review to demonstrate the false claim that “there is no choice” and that if the Powers That Be think we will now slink away and forget about it they are sorely mistaken.
The thing is – the new motion proposed gathering information and confirmed no Paid Parking until after this process had taken place, after which there would be a proper debate. How can any sensible person vote against that? It’s entirely reasonable. I would certainly have preferred us to just rule it out now, but that wasn’t going to make me vote against a Spending Review because that would be a foolish position to take.
Instead, several of my colleagues and I used the debate to clearly state that we would never, ever support Paid Parking. Councillor Chris Boden, Councillor Jan French, Councillor Garry Tibbs, Councillor Samantha Hoy and I all gave very clear speeches making it very clear that regardless of the outcome of the Comprehensive Spending Review, we did not and would not support it. This was my speech to Full Council:
I find myself in a difficult position. Of course I will not vote against a Comprehensive Spending Review. Information, fairly gathered and presented, is a good thing. Moreso if it comes with a guarantee of no Paid Parking in the meantime.
But be under no illusion about this. The public appreciate Councillors to speak plainly, so this is plain as I can be. What other Councillors do for their towns and wards is down to their own views and conscience.But regardless of what apocalyptic story is laid before us at the end of the review, I will never vote for a policy which I believe will kill my town. I will never vote for Paid Parking in Wisbech.
Hopefully that message was clear?
With the online petition set up by Martin Curtis still growing strongly and the Cross-Party Facebook Group also expanding rapidly it is clear that this is an issue which unites people; parties, individuals, businesses. It is an issue which sees UKIP and Labour nodding in the same way, which finds agreement from Eastern European and British traders and which is supported by the old and the young, drivers, pedestrians, retailers and shoppers. When the issue rises again in a few months time – and I have no doubt that it will – anybody who tries to push it through will have the fight of their lives on their hands. It is a fight I am confident we will win, because Paid Parking doesn’t stack up socially, economically or politically and I will campaign relentlessly to make that case in a clear, professional and positive way.