Fenland councillor says car parking charges would kill off town centres

FENLAND councillor Steve Count has declared himself “totally against” plans which could pave the way for the car parking charges that he says will kill of town centres.

Cllr Count voiced his concerns at today’s meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Policy Panel, at which the matter of civil parking enforcement (CPE) was sent back to Cabinet for further consideration.

Cabinet had endorsed a report which would investigate joining the Cambridgeshire wide CPE scheme, but their decision was ‘called in’ by Councillor Mark Archer, as vice chairman of the overview and scrutiny performance panel.

The CPE scheme would lead to traffic wardens policing on street and off street parking - and collecting fines, possibly using the council’s one stop shops.

Meanwhile officers would have looked at the introduction of a new regime of pay and display in local car parks - with all the income going to Fenland Council.

Cllr Count, a staunch opposer of car parking charges, declared himself prejudiced at the meeting but urged councillors to issue the ‘think again’ directive as a member of the public.

He said that the Cabinet should have been presented with an earlier review into the issue, and branded the decision not to consider this report at their September meeting a “terrible failing”.

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Cllr Count said that if councillors agreed to join the CPE scheme it would inevitably lead to charging.

He directed the councillors’ attention to a statement in the report which said: “Off street charging regime is a pre-requisite for joining countrywide CPE” - declaring that a future report in Summer 2011 would give options on HOW MUCH they charge not IF they charge.

He told fellow councillors: “This means charging in car parks. There’s no getting away from that fact. I’m totally against this decision.”

Before the meeting Cllr Count repeated words he had sent to every cabinet member before their original meeting. He said: “For town centres this isn’t the last nail in the coffin this is six feet of top soil.

“Businesses throughout Fenland are hard pressed in these times. The last thing they need is a mistake or confusion leading to car charges emptying our town centre of customers.”

At September’s Cabinet meeting Councillor Melton had insisted CPE was not “car parking charges through the back door”.

Councillor Peter Murphy of Chatteris had explained to Cabinet that Fenland didn’t want to charge for parking “but the option was there”.

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