On Friday our local paper proved yet again how sloppy it can be. The Gazette came up with the following page 3 headline of in their Ealing & Acton edition:
An end in sight to parking fiasco in West Ealing
The full article, by James Gates, is here. The “fiasco” he refers to is the scheduled introduction of the Ealing Dean CPZ last June. We routinely review these CPZs after they are introduced. The mistake the council has made up until now is to use some loose wording about when it will review these in the consultation documents we send out. The Ealing Dean consultation document is here. It says:
We review any new parking controls within their first year.
This really is a bit ambitious. I think we should probably be offering to this review within a maximum two years and only if the funds are available. You wouldn’t even ask the question until the thing had been in for six months. We then have to make sure there is some budget in place to do the consultation and sign off the money. It is going to be in the next financial year after the scheme is put in and it is easy to see how a scheme put in towards the end of a financial year would get reviewed in the next but one year. The residents around the Ealing Dean CPZ, which is only a short and pleasant walk across Walpole Park from the town centre, have been plagued by “displacement parking”. I fully sympathise with their plight but we will be reviewing this CPZ this summer which only a year and the odd month after the CPZ came into force. The Ealing Dean CPZ came into being on 17th June and enforcement did not start for two weeks after that on July 2nd to give people the chance to get used to the new set up. As we are still only in July this does not seem wildly out of order to me.
The problem with the Gazette story is that it mixes up the Ealing Dean story with a ruling by the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) on another scheme a good 2 or 3 miles away in Southall. Apparently the LGO has asked Ealing to give an anonymous citizen in Southall £1,000 in compensation for his injury and inconvenience. You can see the full report here. It refers to the consultation around the Southall Area 5 CPZ. The document is here and has the same wording around reconsultation as the Ealing Dean document.
Although these cases are similar they are quite distinct and it is just sloppy that the Gazette has failed to explain them properly. No doubt they will argue there is a limit to how much they can explain in 12 column inches. It seems that the council’s six page consultation documents are not long enough to cover every possible nuance of public information we need to impart. Maybe it would be useful if these documents were 12 pages long – I doubt it. I think it is reasonable for the council to argue that the public debate triggered by such a consultation should be sufficient to bring out some of this detail. The Southall CPZ was implemented on 1st July 2008 so it seems a bit previous for the LGO to be issuing a report on 7th July telling the council it is wildly out of order. Fractionally late maybe. We signed off a cabinet paper giving these consultations the go ahead on 7th April, which was as early in the year that could have done this, see here.
CPZs are horrible issues for local councillors. They are not really at all political, at least not with a large P. If politics is emotion then they are political with a small p. Councillors cannot win. There will always be a large body of losers whatever decision is made. They make great copy for a lazy and inaccurate local paper though. Whoop! Whoop!