Having spent 12 days looking at the revenue (current spending) side of the budget I will now spend a few looking at the capital (investment spending) side.
I will keep repeating that to govern is to choose. The reason that the Conservatives opposed the Labour budget, in spite of being in favour of the council tax freeze and many of the proposals in the budget, is that in the very few areas where Labour had any room for manoeuvre they have almost always made the wrong decision. The decision to allocate Â£5.5 million to a car park in Southall is one of Labourâ€™s worst decisions. Currently the council maintains 451 parking spaces in Southall in four car parks, see here.
As we can see from this weekâ€™s survey in the Gazette it is not an obviously popular policy. The reality is that the rest of the borough will look on in horror whilst large parts of the community in Southall will feel that this is a small acknowledgement of the transport problems that they have to face.
When council leader Julian Bell announced the car park with a flourish at the last but one council meeting I challenged him to tell us how many parking places he would get for our money. He didnâ€™t know. He also didnâ€™t know how many council parking places there were in Southall already. The fact is that this is not a policy based on research it is just a flashy promise.
Rather like the wasteful Grimebusters hotline this is another Labour politicianâ€™s shiny bauble. I would have no problem with there being more parking in Southall, indeed the previous administration tried to find private sector providers who wanted to make provision. But, if you are going to spend public money you do have to justify it to the public. Until the council has researched thoroughly who drives to Southall and why it is very silly to build a car park that will potentially increase journeys to Southall without making sure the roads can cope. My suspicion is that crossing the town hall junction is the key factor in journey times in Southall, not the availability of parking.
The council needs to prove its case before it spends the money.
Update: In spite of the Labour administration thinking of adding a car park in Southall the councilâ€™s own property strategy lists five car parks that should be closed and sold:
– Roslin Road, Acton
– Churchfield Road, Acton
– South Ealing Road, Ealing
– George Street, Hanwell
– Tentelow Lane, Southall