Meter running out for Barnet's parking regime?

We should know soon if famous Barnet Conservative Brian Coleman has been ticked off, sanctioned or disciplined in some other way for (the alleged) abuse of his councillor’s free parking permit.  Or not.

Barnet Council is close to completing the ‘Permit Misuse Investigation,’ nearly five months after residents complained that Cllr Coleman parked free in a Golders Green Road ‘pay by phone’ bay and then took part in a Conservative election walkabout with Boris Johnson.

A few days later Cllr Coleman was quoted in the Hendon and Finchley Times saying: “I was on constituency business separate from any political visit that was going on at the time.”  Confusingly, videos filmed on the morning in question (see them at: http://www.barnettv.co.uk/ ) showed Cllr Coleman happily accompanying Boris on his campaign tour of Edgware, Golders Green and Hendon, with barely enough time to catch breath between each stop.

It seemed fair to ask if Cllr Coleman had broken the rule that councillor’s parking permits (which, by the way, Labour councillors do not take up) “must only be used when on official Council or Parliamentary business.”

This farcical story perfectly summed up Cllr Coleman’s attitude towards Barnet’s residents and shopkeepers and their car parking needs, which he had Cabinet responsibility for at the time.  It would be nice to know why it has taken since April for the council to investigate such an apparently simple case.

Over that same period, the parking policies established by Cllr Coleman have been disowned and apologised for by new Conservative leader Richard Cornelius, although he has done nothing to fix the problems they caused apart from sacking Coleman and replacing him with someone else, who has been spectacularly anonymous so far.

The public dumping of Barnet’s old parking regime by Cllr Cornelius must be causing migraines for the council’s lawyers, who sometime soon will be in the High Court defending Cllr Coleman’s parking policies in a Judicial Review hearing. This has been initiated by residents who believe Barnet is milking the 10 per cent of the population who live in Residents Controlled Parking Zones (CPZs) to help meet its budget shortfall across the whole borough, which would be unlawful under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, and according to earlier test cases. 

Why do the residents think this? Because of the many statements from Barnet councillors and officials to the effect that 2011’s eye-watering parking charge increases were needed to deal with the council’s financial difficulties.

The case, if it goes ahead, will be a complete mind-bender for the judge. The council will be asking the court to uphold policies that its own council leader has publicly renounced in significant areas. 

The court case is in the name of East Finchley resident David Attfield, who is supported by the Barnet CPZ Action Group.  This is just one of the many grassroots campaigns that have sprung up all over Barnet since the council brought in massive hikes in parking charges for residents and shoppers last year, and made it impossible to park in most high streets unless you could work out how to pay by mobile phone.

Shopkeepers have naturally been up in arms at a parking system that drove shoppers away at exactly the time they were struggling to survive the recession, and every traders’ association has protested to the council.

To recap:

 

  • In 2011 residents parking permits went up from £40 to £100 (now £105). This was the biggest increase in London. Parking a VW Polo in Cricklewood is now more expensive than parking it in Mayfair or Knightsbridge.

 

  • Visitors Parking Vouchers (for people visiting residents in CPZs) went up from £1 to £4 a day, however long you park for. This is the most expensive in London if you park for a few hours or half a day, except for the inner London borough of Lambeth. Visitor vouchers are £1 in Brent, £1.50 (or 75p for concessions) in Harrow, £1.50 in Enfield.  In Haringey a pensioner pays 15p for a voucher when a relative visits them for an hour. In Barnet, it’s now £4.16.  

 

  • Our family home is in the East Finchley CPZ near the tube station which operates from 10am to 6.30pm six days a week. We are using about four visitor vouchers a week – that is an extra £768 a year on top of our £105 parking permit and our £2,051 council tax.  The CPZ Action Group website http://barnetcpz.blogspot.co.uk/ has a lot of examples of how this is affecting mother and toddler groups, grandparents, disabled people and teachers.

 

  • Barnet Council was the only authority in London to switch to ‘pay by phone’ parking in shopping streets, with no alternative. They claimed Westminster had the same policy but in fact shoppers could still pay by debit and credit card at Westminster’s on-street meters.  Barnet is now in the process of abandoning this economically illiterate approach – too late for the scores of shops in the borough that have gone out of business in the last 18 months.

There is much, much more of this, and other crazy Barnet parking stories will appear on the Better Barnet blog in the coming months.

In the meantime, it’s important to state that supporters of the Barnet CPZ Action Group are not a bunch of parking anoraks who only care about their permit prices. We are also active in defence of Barnet’s libraries and children’s Sure Start centres, and have uncovered serious failings in the letting of the NSL parking contract, which is part of the One Barnet privatisation process.  The parking fiasco is an integral element of the bigger Barnet strategy of ripping off residents with unreasonable charges and stealth taxes, wrecking decent public services, destroying local jobs, removing democratic control of services and transferring millions of pounds out of the borough into the coffers of unaccountable private enterprises.

Barnet’s parking regime is a very weak link in the One Barnet strategy and one that we believe can be overturned, because it is unlawful and because it is wrong.

Do please sign up for the CPZ Action Group’s newsletter here:

http://barnetcpz.blogspot.co.uk/

Get involved in the campaign if you are affected. Or, if you have information or ideas that could help. There is a space on the CPZ Action Group website for your stories and observations: any evidence that can be used by the campaign is always welcome.

Gez Sagar, East Finchley.

 

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Showing 13 reactions


@Anjiweather tweeted link to this page. 2012-09-06 13:51:51 +0100
Am I turning into a parking anorak? You decide - I blame Barnet Council Conservative Group > http://t.co/b5WZvlmd via @BetterBarnet
@brilliantname mentioned @BetterBarnet link to this page. 2012-09-06 13:50:59 +0100
Am I turning into a parking anorak? You decide - I blame Barnet Council Conservative Group > http://t.co/b5WZvlmd via @BetterBarnet
@brilliantname tweeted link to this page. 2012-09-06 13:48:22 +0100
Latest BetterBarnet guest blog up from Gez Sagar: Meter running out for Barnet's parking regime? http://t.co/QMP9raJZ via @BetterBarnet
@brilliantname tweeted link to this page. 2012-09-06 13:47:57 +0100
Meter running out for Barnet's parking regime? http://t.co/UTEBGUvb via @BetterBarnet
@barnet_unison tweeted link to this page. 2012-09-03 23:36:46 +0100
Meter running out for Barnet's parking regime? http://t.co/U3muTAih via @BetterBarnet
@ tweeted link to this page. 2012-09-03 15:15:44 +0100
New BetterBarnet guest blog from Gez Sagar: Meter running out for Barnet's parking regime? http://t.co/m2bRLMsT via @BetterBarnet
@AlizonMoore mentioned @BetterBarnet link to this page. 2012-09-03 15:00:38 +0100
New BetterBarnet guest blog from Gez Sagar: Meter running out for Barnet's parking regime? http://t.co/m2bRLMsT via @BetterBarnet
@_MrMustard tweeted link to this page. 2012-09-03 14:31:37 +0100
Meter running out for Barnet's parking regime? http://t.co/U3muTAih via @BetterBarnet
@ tweeted link to this page. 2012-09-03 14:24:58 +0100
Latest BetterBarnet guest blog up from Gez Sagar: Meter running out for Barnet's parking regime? http://t.co/QMP9raJZ via @BetterBarnet
@ mentioned @BetterBarnet link to this page. 2012-09-03 14:23:17 +0100
Meter running out for Barnet's parking regime? http://t.co/UTEBGUvb via @BetterBarnet
@ mentioned @BetterBarnet link to this page. 2012-09-03 14:21:21 +0100
Meter running out for Barnet's parking regime? http://t.co/U3muTAih via @BetterBarnet
@ mentioned @BetterBarnet link to this page. 2012-09-03 14:18:34 +0100
Meter running out for Barnet's parking regime? http://t.co/m1aMW476 via @BetterBarnet
@BarnetLabour mentioned @BetterBarnet link to this page. 2012-09-03 14:14:48 +0100
Latest BetterBarnet guest blog up from Gez Sagar: Meter running out for Barnet's parking regime? http://t.co/QMP9raJZ via @BetterBarnet
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