Consultation to be held on Parking
Councillors Want Local Views - Or do they?
Hounslow Council is to embark on a consultation exercise as part of an assessment of parking policy. A public meeting is to be held in Chiswick on 18th October to begin the process which they say they hope to complete by Spring 2007.
The meeting was announced by Cllr. Paul Lynch at a recent Chiswick Area Committee meeting but there has been widespread sceptism from residents about the move. Some have pointed out that a consultation exercise would seem superfluous given that parking was a major issue during the elections and the new administration clearly has a mandate to do something about it.
Even if a consultation exercise is necessary the effort to make the public aware of the meeting has been minimal. No mention was made in the most recent borough magazine, no press release has been issued by the Council and despite lengthy threads on the ChiswickW4.com discussion forum no Councillor has bothered to inform participants about the meeting.
The meeting is to be held in the Michael Room, at St. Michael and All Angels Church near Turnham Green tube which has a very limited capacity. It would appear that the expectation is that not many people are likely to turn up.
Ruth Cadbury, Hounslow Labour Group said, "It's another example of the Tory/ICG council dithering instead of making decisions. They made a lot of promises which they won't be able to keep and, less than six months after the election, voters are beginning to ask if the new leadership actually know what they are doing. If they were serious about this issue they would have produced proper proposals rather than this semi-secret meeting. I hope that Chiswick residents will go along and call the Tories to account. "
Many residents had anticipated prompt action on what were considered unfair parking policies once the new administration was established and are surprised any consultation is necessary at all. In boroughs such as Camden and Ealing there has been an immediate change in policy following the takeover of the Council by a new party. In Hounslow the new administration has actually budgetted for an increase in revenue from parking and raised charges for visitor vouchers and carers' permits. It was widely expected that the new administration would immediately announce a move to standardise parking charges in the borough which Conservative councillors had consistently condemned as discriminatory towards Chiswick when in oppostion.
Prior to the election data was published that showed that the borough's tow trucks spend most of their time in the Chiswick area and are targetting quiet residential roads and removing cars that are not causing an obstruction. If anything this kind of activity seems to have intensified since the election. A Council spokesperson has claimed that there is no financial incentive given to the companies responsible for parking enforcement to issue more tickets and tow more vehicles but residents report seeing Parking Attendants and tow trucks working in tandem to maximise the number of vehicles they can catch. Hounslow appointed NCP to do tow vehicles in October 2005 and have to
The removal priorities agreed by the Executive are supposed to ensure that NCP only tow for more serious offences. They have been given specific guidelines as to which vehicles they can remove from bays including those parked in disabled bays, persistent offenders and when there has been a specific complaint. However no such guidelines appear to have been given for parking on single yellow lines and as a result there appears to be systematic targetting of sites where the signs are confusing with no attempt whatsoever to address the seriousness of the parking violation. 70% of cars towed in the borough are for yellow line violations.
Ealing Council's new leadership recently published details of the parking contract that they had inherited from the previous administration. This gave rising scale payment to the company that enforced parking in the borough meaning that they had a huge incentive to issue as many tickets as possible.
It has been speculated that the current administration lead by Chiswick Councillor, Peter Thompson, is unable to act as decisively as their counterparts in Ealing and other boroughs because it is part of a coalition with a slim majority. If they were to tackle problems to the Chiswick area such as the higher permit charges and the aggressive targetting of the area by tow trucks this might weaken their position in other parts of the borough where their position is more marginal.
October 12, 2006