Labour calls foul as free parking petition stalls
‘Thousands of people have backed this ‘referendum’ for county wide free parking yet the council is dragging its feet’ – Grant Davey
Liberal Democrat led Northumberland County Council has come under fire for ‘dragging its feet’ over the issue of parking charges in Alnwick, Berwick, Hexham and Morpeth after it emerged that the council was yet to process thousands of signatures calling for an end to unfair parking charges as part of its official petitions policy.
The petition, set up by the Labour party, to highlight the cost of parking charges which they estimate to be £5m, closed on 27 Feb. The council then posted a message on the petitions site promising to process over 3000 signatures (from Berwick alone) ‘shortly’. Hundreds more signatures were collected in Morpeth and Alnwick.
Now the Labour party is challenging the council to ‘get on with it and set up a meeting of the council’s Petitions Committee as soon as possible’ to allow the issue to be debated and to give the petitioners a chance to highlight the problems parking charges are causing in towns across the county. Labour have branded the parking charges ‘a tax on motorists’ and are planning to give local town council’s the final say on whether parking charges should apply.
Labour have been joined by local Chambers of Trade who collected many of the signatures for the petition who are also demanding the council gets on with it and holds the Petitions meeting.
A spokesman for the newly formed Northumberland Market Towns Chambers of Trade, John Haswell of Berwick said
'I'm very disappointed that the council has chosen to ignore this petition which has gathered thousands of names, all calling for free parking across the county. Over 3,000 signatures were gathered in Berwick alone from some very angry people. The residents have spoken clearly and signed up to the petition which closed on 27 Feb and because of the Councils failure to fulfil its obligations and convene a meeting, thousands more residents of Berwick and the other market town are still being bled dry in parking charges. Now over 4 weeks have passed and we've not heard anything from the council. I appreciate this issue may not be comfortable for the current administration but it deserves to be heard. We're calling for the Petitions meeting to be convened as early as possible to allow the thousands of residents who took time to sign up to the petition to make their voices heard'.
A Labour party spokesperson said
‘This petition is effectively a referendum on the Liberal Democrat administration unfair ‘parking stealth tax’. Thousands of people have taken the trouble to sign up to a petition which shows the strength of feeling against this policy. It’s clearly unfair that Jeff Reid and his Liberal colleagues are sitting in County Hall deciding a policy which should be decided in the towns themselves. They need to act now and set up the Petitions meeting to allow the people to hear the real facts about the Northumberland ‘parking tax’.