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27 April 2008

Disappointment as parking call-in dismissed

Lib Dem Councillors have expressed their disappointment that the scrutiny call-in, which had been organised to look into the increases in parking costs in Bath, has been dismissed.

The panel voted, by four votes to three, to dismiss the call-in, with Conservative Councillors from outside of Bath backing the original decision taken by their Conservative Cabinet colleague. The Cabinet member will now be free to go ahead and implement the decision to apply increases of up to 60% to residents’ permit costs across the city, as well as a number of other changes to parking costs and arrangements.

The call-in panel raised a number of issues around poor consultation and excessive increases to permit costs. Although all Councillors agreed that consultation on this decision had been inadequate, Conservative Councillors appeared more concerned with the state of the Council’s finances than the issue of engaging with those who will be affected.

Councillor Ian Gilchrist (Widcombe), who led the call-in signatories commented:

“I am disappointed that the Conservative and Independent members of the panel did not recognise the merits of the case made to uphold the call-in.

“I thought that the arguments outlining the damaging effects of extending charged times in the city centre to 8pm were pretty compelling, and if they don’t listen to Nod Knowles (Director of Bath Festivals) who will they listen to?

“I am slightly mollified by the apparent concession that Cllr Gerrish has made in the direction of Sunday evening parking, but this still has to be confirmed. If we have achieved even this small bit of good then that is a good thing. Residents will not be pleased at a 60% increase in their annual charges, but I do draw comfort from the thought that we at least did our best to oppose this.”

Cllr Steve Hedges (Odd Down), who sat on the panel, said:

“This really is a kick in the teeth for the democratic process; this decision has been made with complete disregard for best practice in decision-making such as engaging with hard-to-reach groups and the elderly who are often on fixed incomes. The Cabinet member also refused to address the issues raised in the call-in notice, including my concerns around costs of permits for traders, most of whom are small independent businesses who can not afford such huge increases.”

Concerns raised by Nod Knowles as to the impact on the night time economy, were supported by Cllr Roger Symonds (Combe Down), who said:

“Extending car park charging from 6pm to 8pm will have a knock-on effect for all evening and night time businesses in the city centre. How long before this money grabbing administration extends charging until 8pm for kerbside parking as well? It is significant that none of the four councillors who voted to dismiss the call-in live in Bath.”

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