Labour accused of being anti-car and punishing areas that didn't vote for them
Calls have been made for Merton Council to abandon an “unfair parking tax”.
The council is proposing increasing parking charges depending on the emissions of each vehicle. It will be the second rise in parking charges for some, as in January charges increased in some areas of the borough with better transport links.
The largest increase was in Wimbledon where on-street parking rose from £1.20-2.40 an hour to £4.50.
The latest proposal could see drivers paying more or less than they currently do depending on the type of car they have. Generally, cars manufactured before 2006 (petrol) and 2017 (diesel) do not meet emissions standards.
The change in charges would also depend on which area you live in. For example, in central Wimbledon, an annual parking permit currently costs £150. Under the new charges those driving fully electric cars would only have to pay just £20 while the most polluting cars (emitting more than 255 g of CO2 per km) would have to pay £540.
A visitor permit in the same area costs £4 a day and would be free for a fully electric car but would range between £3.25-6 for other cars.
At a council meeting on Wednesday (18 November), councillor Daniel Holden on behalf of the Merton Conservatives, called on the council scrap the proposals.
He said, “Labour are creating a money-making cash cow milking the residents who need their cars, they are anti-car and are deliberately making people’s lives more difficult.
“This has a negative impact on the elderly who often own cars from a long while ago or require family, friends or carers to visit.
“Often poor residents can’t afford to upgrade their cars, this tax could very easily impact these residents over their wealthy neighbours.”
He said the increased charges would be a “tax on not voting Labour” as it would hit Wimbledon and Raynes Park harder, which are represented by mostly Conservative councillors.
Fellow Conservative councillor, David Dean, said that he is concerned the changes would encourage more people to pave over their driveways to avoid paying more to park on the street.
And Liberal Democrat councillor Anthony Fairclough said that while his group supports improving air quality he thinks the administration should rethink its proposal.
He said that there should be more time for people to potentially change their cars and the ability to get discounts for those that use their cars less often.
But councillor Martin Whelton, cabinet member for housing, regeneration and the climate emergency, defended the proposals.
He said: “As a council we will seek to introduce policies that encourage a reduction in car journeys and a increase in sustainable transport modes.
“We will try and support a switch to low emissions vehicles. The main benefits of the proposals, are an improvement in public health outcomes by switching to cycling and walking.
“Reduction in air pollution, less use of cars and reduction in harmful emissions. Reduction in car ownership and an increase in car clubs.”
The motion by the Conservative group to scrap the plans was not backed by the council.
Public consultation on the plans closed on 26 October and once all the comments are evaluated they are expected to be discussed by cabinet in early 2021.
If the plans are approved, new charges could come in as early as April 2021.
Tara O'Connor, Local Democracy Reporter
November 22, 2020