Thursday, January 03, 2008

Are these going to damage my chances of being elected?

There has been a great deal of debate in the local newspaper about the very real prospect of on street parking meters being introduced throughout the Borough.

I use the term 'debate' advisedly, in fact there have been endless howls of protest from angry council tax payers about the prospect of being charged to park up, especially on Paignton seafront.

The idea has been floated by my Conservative colleague the Mayor Nick Bye as one way of attempting to 'balance the books' over the NCP parking warden contract which is losing the council £500,000 every year.

As it happens I think it is hardly surprising that people are complaining that something that they currently take for granted as being free should in future cost them money, especially in a place as sensitive about attracting a constant stream of visitors as Torbay.

Since we are one of the only local authorities left in Devon that doesn't currently exploit this method of taxing motorists I always assumed it was only a matter of time before we joined in, and so it has turned out.

But the big question is, will the voters seek revenge at election time?

Most of my target seat PPC colleagues are now in areas that have become Tory controlled after our nationwide gains in 2007 and most of them see it as a double-edged sword. On the one hand there is proof of a Conservative revival, with a renewed activist base that goes with it; but on the other hand we are then potentially the victims if the (now Tory) councils have to make unpopular decisions; which of course, they do.

Well, you can't be in power and not make tough decisions. As it happens I am certain that most borough residents won't especially welcome the new charges but can and do accept the requirement for the council to generate enough revenue, especially from visitors, to provide a decent environment for all of us to enjoy. I don't think it will be harmful at the ballot box provided the council do carry on delivering the infrastructure improvements everybody agrees we need.

In any case, I am certain that the 'local pavement politics' angle much relied on by especially Liberal Democrat MP's in recent elections will fade as a factor the next General Election. For the first time since 1997 the prospect of voting for a new Government is at stake; and voters will have much bigger fish to fry, deciding on national issues like who they want as Prime Minister.


Anonymous said...

The bigger question that should be asked is what's gone wrong with the contract that it's ended up costing the council a half million pound over spend !

Anonymous said...

There's also the issue of the proposed charges. Park anywhere on-street near Newton Abbot Town Centre and expect to put perhaps 30p into a meter but anywhere in Torquay and you are looking at at least twice that. I run a small business and I've lived in Torbay all my life (40) but as I now live in Kingskerswell, the choice of direction for banking, post office, shopping etc is simple... THAT is why Torbay is failing - everyone shops out of town! We need to do all we can to draw trade into the towns not deter it. Fleet Street should also be open to traffic but down only. Not even buses should be allowed up. Why? Simple - less pollution - driving up hill=foot on the gas & thus more emmissions. Also, the first thing most visitors do on arriving in their destination the first time is check-out the town: in Torquay, Paignton and to a lesser extent Brixham, what impression does this set if you drive through? Would you then come back and PAY to park??? All you get is a 1 way tour of back alleys & charity shops. Why can't we improve the 'drive-thu' and make people WANT to stop - BEFORE we hit them with parking charges!

Marcus Wood said...

I do agree that a lot depends on the level of charging; and not only that but the minimum payment.

In Honiton near my office you can get ten minutes for 20p which is useful if you are stopping for a few minutes to drop off or pick up - I hope we go down this route and I will be canvassing Nick Bye for a sensible charging structure.