Thomas Bridge 13 March 2015

Pickles' parking reforms are 'nonsense', says councillor

Eric Pickles' parking reforms are 'nonsense' and could set costs soaring for all council tax payers, according to a Lib Dem councillor.

Cllr Iain Sharpe, cabinet member for regeneration and development at Watford BC, accused the Government of being 'unable to resist' trying to micromanage council policies that are best managed 'on the ground'.

His calls came just days after communities secretary Eric Pickles announced sweeping changes to parking enforcement, including a 10-minute 'grace period' for drivers before they are fined while parked in a bay and a ban on using CCTV enforcement at locations apart from schools, bus stops and bus lanes.

Pickles said his reforms were 'ending the war on drivers who simply want to go about their daily business', bringing 'big benefits for high streets, motorists and local authorities' and putting 'common sense' back into parking.

Yet writing on Lib Dem Voice, Cllr Sharpe refuted suggestions that councils were 'waging war' on the motorist or using parking as a 'cash cow'.

'Pickles' 10-minute nationally enforced grace period is nonsense,' Cllr Sharpe wrote. 'It seems to be based on an assumption that those parking where they shouldn't or longer than permitted are doing no harm. But in fact they may be holding up traffic unnecessarily, causing a safety hazard, preventing residents parking near their homes or depriving shops of potential paying customers.'

He said councils were already under 'strict' central government control on parking, with fines set nationally and a parking appeals service available to drivers.

'Councils must ring-fence money from on-street parking enforcement for transport use. It can fund public transport, walking and cycling, all of which can help to reduce parking pressures. If councils are denied this income though being obliged to issue fewer tickets, either there will be less money for transport schemes or the cost will effectively be transferred from those who park illegally to all council tax payers,' Cllr Sharpe added.

'There are always going to be conflicting views in any community about parking controls - but the point is these are best managed on the ground by those who are aware of specific local circumstances - not by diktat imposed from Whitehall and Westminster.'

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin has said that the Government's measures will 'deliver a fairer deal for motorists and help boost the high street by ensuring that parking enforcement is proportionate, while also protecting school children and keeping key routes and bus lanes clear'.

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