Council's Controversial Parking Charge Decision Is Challenged

Lib Dems ask for further scrutiny of plans to raise parking costs in Wimbledon

Lib Dem Councillors protest

A formal challenge to council plans to increase parking charges in and around Wimbledon has been lodged by Lib Dem councillors.


The Liberal Democrat group has asked for the decision to give the biggest increases to areas with best public transport access to be ‘called in’ for further scrutiny.


Lib Dem council group leader Anthony Fairclough said: “The Labour administration says these new charges will reduce traffic and encourage people to give up their cars, but they’ve repeatedly failed to provide any evidence that suggests this is likely to happen.


“The scheme looks like it’s purely to raise revenue, mainly targeted at people who live in areas that don’t elect Labour councillors – Wimbledon and Raynes Park – where the new charges will be highest. We hope that the ‘call-in’ will force them to look at their plans again.


"Instead we want them to look seriously at schemes where the worst polluting vehicles pay more, where support is given to help people change to greener vehicles, and where other positive action is also taken to improve air quality."


The council has agreed to introduce a new parking charges system which will apply to controlled parking zones, public car parks, on street parking and parking permits in Merton, which has been designated as an air quality management area.


It is giving the biggest increases to places with best access to public transport, so Wimbledon town centre will see the highest charges going up to £4.50 an hour in some areas.


Permits in Wimbledon will increase from £65 to £150 annually, while in areas where public transport is not as good, permits will go up by £5 to £70.


The proposals received some criticism from residents in the affected areas and around 3,000 people responded to a consultation exercise. As a result of the consultation, the council did change the boundaries of some of the affected areas.


The council also says it has already introduced a variety of walking and cycling initiatives, including six kilometres of new cycle routes and 651 more cycle parking spaces over the last six years. So far, 101 electric vehicle charging points have been installed across the borough, with an additional 36 planned by the end of the year.


However, currently in Merton, 42% of journeys are made by car, compared to 30% on foot, 3% by bike and 24% on public transport. The council wants to reduce the number of journeys made by car.


But Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Wimbledon, Cllr Paul Kohler, is speaking to lawyers from the same firm who represented him in his legal action to save Wimbledon Police Station, about whether the measures are legal.


He said: “Facts matter: how can Labour say that raising taxes on parked cars will improve air quality and health outcomes when council officers have confirmed that no such evidence has been provided?


“Furthermore, Council officers indicated that some older and disabled people, women who are pregnant or who have just given birth, and those with lower incomes could be badly affected by the policy2, and yet there doesn’t seem to have been any real consultation with those affected about how to reduce the negative impact. This is basic equality law.


“I am currently consulting my lawyers to see whether we can challenge this policy in the courts as discriminatory. I took the Mayor of London to court to reverse his unlawful decision to close Wimbledon Police Station and I’m quite willing to do the same with Merton Council if solicitors confirm we have a good case.”


“I hope sense will prevail, as I have no wish to embroil our Council in legal action. All I am asking is that they adopt a non-discriminatory approach to addressing the very real financial pressures caused by the Government’s failure to fund local government properly.


“The decision lacks: evidence that it will improve air quality; logic - they are increasing costs in those areas where air quality is best; principle - they are only applying it to areas that tend not to vote Labour; and buy-in - with over 3000 submissions to the consultation3 nearly all of whom opposed the measures.”

August 2, 2019