Decision-making process for price hike to be reviewed after council vote
A decision to increase parking charges by up to 130% in Merton will be revisited after the council failed to follow its own procedures.
The price hike, which has been described as discriminatory, would see parking in Wimbledon going up from £1.20 to £4.50 in some areas and permits increasing from £65 up to £150.
But there is now the possibility that this could now be overturned thanks to a ‘call-in’.
At a special meeting of the council’s overview and scrutiny commission on Wednesday (August 14) Liberal Democrat Councillor Anthony Fairclough was among those challenging the parking plan for ‘the failure to follow the council’s set equality assessment process’.
As part of the plan ‘equalities groups’ including people with disabilities and pregnant women had to be consulted.
But Councillor Fairclough argued at the meeting (the picture above is from Merton TV) that the council had failed to consult relevant groups enough to minimise the negative impact on them.
At the meeting, Chris Lee, Drector of environment and regeneration. said groups had been contacted by email but when they did not respond it was not followed up as it should have been.
He added that the council had gone ‘above and beyond’ its statutory duty but did accept that it did not follow its own process of going back to affected groups a second time.
Lib Dem Councillor Paul Kohler said: “If you have a public decision making process you must live by that.
“What I am saying it that you did not comply with the process and it is clear that you did not comply with the process we must refer [the decision] back.”
And Councillor Owen Pritchard (Labour) agreed that if the process had not been properly followed it should go back to cabinet.
He said: “There is a need for active consultation with these groups rather than passive consultation by sending an email.”
The proposal to send the parking decision back to the council’s cabinet was backed by nine-strong committee unanimously. This is the first time a call-in has ever been successful in Merton.
A second call-in was made by the Merton Conservatives where Councillor Daniel Holden slammed the consultation as a being a sham and called for “progressive solutions not regressive taxes”. But this call-in was not carried, it received three votes for and six against.
The new parking charges would see an increase in both hourly parking rates and residents parking permits. Some argue that it will affect the elderly and most vulnerable.
But Merton Council argues it will increase air quality in the borough by encouraging more people to walk and take public transport.
And the council says parking in Wimbledon would be more expensive than other parts of the borough as it is well connected with public transport.
Helen Clark Bell CEO of Love Wimbledon said that the price hike would put people off coming into the town centre.
She said: “A 100% increase in the Broadway car park....will have unintended consequences on independent businesses that we are struggling to keep in Wimbledon town centre. We can’t afford to experiment with the health and vibrancy of our high streets.”
Chris Larkman, from the Raynes Park Association, said as a driver he was happy as a driver to be increasingly taxed but described this proposal as unfair. “Let’s all be clear a £60 increase will have no difference on car usage, there is no logic in that, it costs about £5,000 to run a car so £60 is nothing.
“This particular charge is fundamentally unfair people who have their own driveways and live in non CPZ areas don’t have to pay.”
By Tara O'Connor, Local Democracy Reporter
August 16, 2019