Melton gets unexpected support from lone independent councillor who described his leadership as ‘inspirational’
UNEXPECTED support for Fenland Council Leader Alan Melton came today from independent councillor Mark Archer who described him as “inspirational”.
Cllr Archer, who won the Manea seat at the last election as an independent, attacked Councillor John Clark for calling Cllr Melton’s leadership into question.
“To single out Councillor Melton over the pay and park issue is unfair,” said Cllr Archer. “As a leader I think Cllr Melton is fantastic and the leadership today is 100 per cent better than it was previously.
“We have a good strong leader who does listen to his members. Cllr Clark seems not to have realised that the decision to take forward the parking issue was a collective Cabinet decision- not one taken by Cllr Melton on his own.”
“Cllr Melton’s leadership has been inspirational and he is somebody I can very much respect.”
Ironically Cllr Archer believes the Cabinet has got it wrong on the car park issue and has ‘called in’ the decision which means it will be reviewed.
A joint meeting of both overview and scrutiny committees is planned for next month when the issue will be debated.
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“Hopefully I shall play a lead role in that debate,” said Cllr Archer. “To my way of thinking this is the wrong time to be considering this issue. If the economy was strong and our market towns were vibrant then may be it could be considered- but now is not the right time.”
Local Liberal Democrats have described plans by Fenland’s Conservative council to introduce car parking charges as “a blow to Fenland towns”.
Wisbech Liberal Democrat district councillor Dave Patrick said: “In the teeth of a recession, the last thing Fenland’s shopkeepers’ need is a Conservative council that wants to drive away local business by charging people to park.
“Towns like Wisbech have already lost enough local facilities to Peterborough and Kings Lynn. There’s a risk that our communities will become ghost towns if people have to pay to park”.
Chatteris town councillor Christine Colbert added: “Residents and small businesses need to be allowed to have their say on the Conservative council’s plans.
“It’s clear that Alan Melton really hasn’t thought this through.
“He and his Conservative colleagues will need to watch out in next May’s council elections if they insist on going ahead with this ill-considered and untimely proposal.”
Whittlesey Tory councillor Martin Curtis also added to the debate today and said he would need some convincing civil parking enforcement and charging was the way forward.
“Civil Parking Enforcement is a way of providing enforcement of parking offences through charging for on-street parking - (i.e. such as along Market Street),” he said.
“However, it cannot and will not work without the use of off street charging (i.e. it has to include car parks) and, if the charging regime is right, Fenland could make a profit out of it - something that is an important part of the debate given that we face serious financial challenges in the near future.
“But, to me, the important point is the word enforcement. In my opinion Whittlesey does not have serious enforcement issues.
“Moreover, there is the possibility for CPE to provide some minimal support to areas like ours without a charging regime. Police Officers will also retain the right to issue tickets in certain circumstances.
“So, from where I sit, no serious enforcement issues, no need for CPE or the car parking charges that go along with it.
“When CPE was discussed at the County Council I pushed this point of view that there should be flexibility in the scheme so that those Towns/Districts that didn’t want or need CPE had the ability not to introduce it.
“The reason I am fundamentally opposed to general car parking charges is because of Whittlesey’s unique position in Fenland.
“It’s proximity to Peterborough (and especially to Hampton) mean that it has to find ways of standing out and selling the things that are unique about it in order to preserve our Town centre.
“We need to build on our USPs not get rid of them, otherwise, we might as well just put “Please shop at Hampton” signs on our roundabouts.