Tory handling of parking charges is ‘amateurish’

BOSTON Labour councillors were disappointed but not surprised at last week’s call-in that the Conservative group refused to allow their parking strategy to go back to cabinet for further consideration.

The main basis of our argument was that there had been no meaningful public consultation on the policy.

This is not a party political dispute. Many other Conservative authorities have set up working groups made up of people from disability groups, local businesses and other stakeholders where parking was seen as an issue in their towns.

Unfortunately our Conservative councillors weren’t prepared to do that.

They made some very flimsy arguments based on a document that was produced over five years ago which had been lying on the shelf gathering dust.

If it had had any merit they might have used it before now, but it didn’t have any merit then and doesn’t now.

We also asked them if they had considered free car parking when they had submitted their bid for funding through the Mary Portas Review; typically the answer was no, even though Mary Portas advocates free town car parking to stimulate growth and we are aware that people are travelling to Spalding and other parts of Lincolnshire where there is free parking rather than travel to Boston.

The Tories dismissed that argument which then shows how out of touch they are with the real trends of shopping within our surrounding towns.

What was even more shocking was the other revelations.

An able-bodied officer had got into a wheelchair to test the height of the parking meters.

We asked if they had invited any of the members of the disability forum to take part in this exercise – they said no.

This just shows their lack of understanding of the range of disabilities that people face in our town, when an able-bodied person thinks that he can emulate the difficulties faced by a disabled person.

We asked how they arrived at the decision to give disabled people an additional free half hour over and above the time paid for.

One councillor initially said that they made the decision, but then said it was the whole Tory group who made the decision.

When we spoke to other councils about how they made this judgement, it was following discussion with local disabled groups and following equality impact assessments.

In Boston’s case it seems to have been done on the back of a fag packet with a we know best attitude.

We also asked about the ongoing consultation allowing people to send in objections to the proposed Blue Badge parking charges which runs until May 23 before these charges are implemented on June 1.

We asked what contingency they had to deal with any objections which were sent in – they said that these would have to be dealt with if they were sent in – not a very satisfactory way to deal with a consultation.

Boston Labour councillors believe the whole issue of Blue Badge parking charges and the car parking strategy has been handled in an extremely amateurish way.

It doesn’t take much imagination to realise that before making any decisions about the budget, the best way forward would have been to sit down with all interested parties and to have had a proper consultation based on evidence and fact and not back of fag packet calculations and out of date documents.

Even more essential is that all decisions must be made in line with the Equalities Act otherwise the risk is that the council leaves itself wide open for legal challenge which has happened to other authorities who have chosen to disregard equality issues.