Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Free parking proving a divisive issue for Northumberland Tories

Free parking proving a divisive issue for Northumberland Tories
Tory group leader and Town and Parish Council’s set for collision on who should decide local parking as Jackson seeks to play ‘Santa in Sept’.

Northumberland Conservative group leader Peter Jackson has put his group on a ‘collision course’ with Conservative dominated Town Council’s like Hexham after it emerged he had tabled a motion to next week’s meeting of Full Council (3 Sept) calling for the ‘introduction of free parking across the whole county in Dec’.
In a move which sees Councillor Jackson seeking to play ‘Santa in Sept’, his motion has been described as ‘premature and divisive’ by Hexham Town Councillor Dave Clegg.
Hexham Town Council is due to meet with officers of the County Council in the next two weeks to set out a ‘roadmap’ to produce a ‘Traffic Management Plan’ which will allow for the permanent introduction of free parking in towns such as Hexham, Berwick, Morpeth and Alnwick. The council has set up a cross party committee to work out how local communities can manage their traffic flows and the County Council have already pledged to introduce ‘free parking’ as part of the plan if that’s what local communities decide.
Now Councillor Jackson and fellow Conservative councillors on the County Council have been accused of ‘undermining local decisions’ as town council’s in Berwick, Morpeth, Hexham and Alnwick meet to discuss how they want to introduce new traffic schemes including a pledge for free parking if local communities agree.
The motion comes hot on the heels of Hexham MP Guy Opperman’s intervention when he accused the county council of ‘dragging its feet over free car parking’. His comments have attracted criticism as parish council’s such as Corbridge have already indicated that they may not want to introduce free parking because ‘it may create a parking free for all’.

Hexham Town Councillor Dave Clegg, commenting on the motion said
‘I’m unsure why Peter Jackson and Guy Opperman have a problem with local communities making a decision about how they manage their parking and traffic flows. Labour candidates across Northumberland stood on a platform to give local communities the final say over free parking and now the Conservatives seem to want to take that away. Why can’t they learn that County Hall doesn’t have to make every decision?’
A Labour group spokesperson said
‘Peter Jackson’s motion risks upsetting the arrangements that local town and parish councils are going to make on their traffic management plans. We’re seeking his assurances that this motion isn’t designed to upset plans to introduce free parking through local traffic management plans. His motion ignores parish council’s like Corbridge and its key that local communities get to decide their own parking priorities. Free parking has been a vexatious issue for too long and instead of trying to play ‘Santa in September’, Peter Jackson and the Conservative party in Northumberland should be working with their colleagues on town and parish council’s to make sure that local priorities are reflected in their traffic plans. After all, under Labour’s manifesto commitment, free parking will be for all year round not just for Christmas’.


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