Friday, 23 May 2008

Put the Clock Back Campaign

Liberal Democrats in Bath have expressed their delight at the news that the huge public out-cry has led B&NES Council to review the unpopular extension of car-park hours.

Commenting, Don Foster MP said:

“The decision to extend the hours of charging was completely crazy. It shows how out of touch our Conservative Council leaders are. The decision has hit hundreds of people, from charity volunteers to restaurant owners. Everyone who travels into the city centre for an evening event or to enjoy the nightlife has been adversely affected. Even our Special Constables whose shift begins at 7pm now have to pay to park their cars in the car park next to the Police Station. Even those who help keep our city safe are now out-of-pocket.

“I’ve been amazed by the lack of consultation by the Conservative-run Council. Until the protests began, the people of Bath have had no say about a decision made by Council leaders most of whom don’t live in the city.

“At a time when other costs are rapidly rising, unless the decision is reversed there will be a huge impact on the economy of the city. The Tory Council are in danger of killing the goose that lays the golden egg. Thank goodness they have at least agreed to reconsider.”

Councillor Ian Gilchrist (Widcombe), who has opposed the slew of parking hikes introduced by the first Conservative budget, added:

“When I led the Liberal Democrat challenge to the Conservatives' decision on parking hours and costs, I did so mainly on the basis that the Council's consultation had been defective. Little or no evidence was produced to show that residents' opinions had been sought or taken into account.

“The decision to charge for an extra hour in city car parks prompted a massive show of opposition, culminating in the Chronicle campaign. It’s clear that, had a proper consultation been carried out in the first place, the Cabinet member would have realised that his decision would have a massive effect on all sorts of people – not just those enjoying the city’s night life, but volunteers and charity workers too. If the Cabinet member had not put the cart before the horse he could have saved a lot of time and energy!”

Councillor Caroline Roberts (Newbridge), who chaired the call-in meeting, commented:

“This decision by the Cabinet member to review the decision shows that the call-in we held in April was valid, despite criticism from the Cabinet. It also shows that had the Tories on the panel not voted on political lines to dismiss the call-in, time would have been saved and the concerns and suggestions mentioned both in the meeting and through other sources could have been considered thoroughly by Councillor Gerrish before the decision was implemented. Now residents’ will have to wait till July for anything to change.

“The call-in process gives an opportunity for both public and Councillors to hear the reasons for the decision but also to make suggestions for improvement, through the panel’s recommendations. Unfortunately Conservative Councillors missed this opportunity.”