Curtis warns electorate would feel ‘conned’ if car park charges were back on the agenda across Fenland

Cllr Martin Curtis.

Cllr Martin Curtis. - Credit: Archant

Martin Curtis, a former county and district councillor, warned today that voters across Fenland would “feel conned” if car park charges were to be introduced.

Cllr Curtis, who remains a Whittlesey town councillor and senior NE Cambs Conservative Association official, tore into the proposal by leadership candidate John Clark.

Although Cllr Clark had hinted earlier in the week that car park charges may have to be considered as part of a future budget, Cllr Curtis warned: “We can’t let this happen”.

Cllr Curtis said that having won such a decisive victory last Thursday he was furious that to “suddenly throw this in afterwards” was a step too far.

“It is real short term thinking,” he said. “The reality is that in Fenland free parking is a unique selling point for our towns and we should build on that.”

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Cllr Curtis said the district was in a strong position to grow and that from last year every bit of additional business rate growth would come back to Fenland.

And he warned that if his own town of Whittlesey was to be faced with car park charges “we might as well go and wave a white flag outside Hampton in Peterborough”.

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He added: “What has to be said by the leadership of Fenland Council is that car parking charges is not on this or any other agenda. Instead we must set about making our town centres thrive. There are other ways to raise revenue and however we start to generate that extra it mustn’t be done so as to harm businesses.”

“I don’t consider car park charges as Conservatism. People need to think very carefully about it.”

Cllr Curtis timed his comments ahead of a crucial 6pm meeting at Fenland Hall today which will decide which councillor becomes group leader and, de facto, council leader for the next four years.

The odds on Cllr Clark retaining the leadership shortened following the intervention of Wisbech Conservative Association chairman and district councillor Steve Tierney.

Cllr Clark went to Wisbech on Monday evening (they met at Cllr Tierney’s favourite local, the Angel) and invited him to join his cabinet. Not only did Cllr Tierney decline the offer – 24 hours later, angered by the proposals being put forward by Cllr Clark – he emerged as a candidate in his own right.

Two days of intensive lobbying of the 34 strong Conservative group appears to have swung a majority of councillors in favour of Cllr Tierney.

If elected tonight it will be a radical departure for Fen politics – and a wave of fresh appointments to the Cabinet, with many new faces set to make their first appearance and many old faces ‘retired’ to the back benches.

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