Parking strategy poor for economy

AT a meeting last week of Northumberland County Council, councillors discussing the Northumberland parking strategy witnessed the administration declare its contempt for the people and businesses of Blyth and the rest of Northumberland.

The executive decision on the future of car parking was to be that the strategy was to be delegated to the corporate director of local services in consultation with the executive member for infrastructure and the environment.

This decision was subsequently called in to be discussed by the full council, and after a number of amendments and lengthy discussions council decided that any future amendments be delegated to a permanent cross-party parking, traffic management and economic environment working group, with all changes being subject to pre-scrutiny by the economic prosperity and strategic services overview and scrutiny committee prior to executive decision.

But to my dismay an amendment asking the council to retain free parking we have in south east Northumberland and extend it across the county was defeated by the Liberal Democrat leadership voting against this and the Conservatives abstaining.

Only the Labour members and some Independent councillors wanted to give the people of Northumberland free parking to aid the future of local business and be supportive of the needs of local people and economy.

During 2010-11, £960,520 was removed from the economy of Berwick, with parking charges of £1.10 per hour the council is expecting to raise £2.4m from Ashington and £3.4m from Blyth.

With the GDP reducing at the most rapid rate since the dark days of the last Tory government and unemployment in the south east moving towards the highest point in a decade, this level of secondary taxation will only go to stifle any hopes of recovery for our local economy.

During the past three years I and the rest of the Labour group have been given a clear mandate by the people and businesses in Northumberland with 4,400 people voting against the introduction of parking charges in Blyth.

The leader of the council was given the chance to amend the policy to ask for free parking only in the south east (I would prefer equality throughout Northumberland) but he still could not retain free parking in Blyth or to extend this to the rest of Northumberland.

The Labour group has shown support for the county council to become a civil parking authority to enable us to alleviate the parking problems and blight of illegal parking without secondary taxes in the form of parking charges.

With comment like ‘free parking would be irresponsible’ and the Tories stating they would abstain, it became clear the amendment would fail, which it did.

Seeing as it was a named vote, I would ask the people of the south east and the rest of Northumberland to check which way their councillors voted and hold them to task on this issue.

As it stands, I believe the current car parking strategy is not supportive to the needs of local people or the economy.

COUN VINCE COLLIS

Croft Ward

Blyth n Parking row – Page 27