Dundonald Liberal Democrats

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Council parking charges plan challenged over lack of evidence

by Dundonald Lib Dems on 10 January, 2019

Speech given by Cllr Anthony Fairclough to the Sustainable Communities Overview & Scrutiny Panel on 9 January 2019

Thank you chair.

I would like to propose that this Panel debate a recommendation to refer this policy to full Council. It is a power that this panel has when it considers a policy to be “outside the budget framework or the policy framework”.

And this applies here – this report claims to be about improving air quality but lacks the evidence and necessary analysis to support this. There is no link made between the action proposed and the outcome desired, and no means of measuring success.

Why do I want to do this, rather than just refer it back to Cabinet?

Well, 2 reasons.

This is a big change. It’s going to be controversial. All the borough’s elected representatives should be able to have their say, and offer their alternatives.

Secondly, I want an air quality policy we think is going to work. Cabinet have already been convinced that their (whose?) plan works by this report and at a 20 minute meeting. We need to give this more thought.

By happy co-incidence, the Strategic Theme for the next full Council meeting in early February is Sustainable Communities with a special focus on air quality. It doesn’t ruin any plans and is in time for the budget.

We might be told that a proposal can only fall outside the policy framework if it is a wholly new area of policy. But to be honest, I think accepting this definition means that nothing could ever be referred to full Council. What, in truth, is a “wholly new” policy area?

We might be told that a proposal only falls outside the budget framework if it is ‘unbudgeted’. However, parking charges policy has some clear legal requirements in relation to the money it raises – it can’t be revenue raising, pricing levels must be set to restrain demand. If it doesn’t do these things, I think it’s clearly outside the budget framework.

But anyway, at the end of the day – it’s the Panel’s decision whether to refer something to full Council because we feel it falls outside the frameworks.

I will make my argument quite simply, just by quoting a couple of bits of this report.

I agree with Para 2.2.23 that any new parking charges must “change behaviour and reduce care usage” and that any new charges must be “designed” to meet parking and air quality objectives.

I agree with Para 2.2.30 that when reaching its decisions, the administration “must instead focus on how the charges will contribute to delivering” parking and air quality objectives .

And I don’t think we can honestly say that this proposal currently shows that level of design or focus, to drive that change?

Indeed the report makes a virtue of not doing so – para 2.2.21 explains that this whole scheme might be replaced by an emissions-based scheme, which will be looked at later this year.

Para 2.3.26 notes that the impact of the policy will be reviewed after 6 months to a year – without setting any benchmark of success.  Page 26 of the savings pack suggests it’s “difficult to assess any level of change in customer behaviour” arising from this proposal …

The administration doesn’t know whether this will work, or if it does, how effective it will be – or how effective it wants it to be. For these reasons, I think it falls outside the policy framework.

With regards to the budget framework, in addition to the lack of evidence and analysis that it will work, the lack of any clear measures of success, the fact that this is a more than significant part of the administration’s budget plans, and that the high revenue is considered only a medium risk that such significant amounts of cash won’t be realised – there’s a good argument for saying this looks like it’s about revenue raising.

The administration should come to full Council, with its evidence base – convince us all.

Thank you chair.

This proposal was defeated 3 votes to 5, with all 5 Labour councillors voting against.

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