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Ealing and Northfield

Ealing is undoubtedly breaking the law with its CPZ charges

Letter to Gazette 16-8-2013A couple of weeks ago, on 16th August, the Gazette published a short letter from me dealing with Controlled Parking Zones (CPZs) and the council’s unreasonable ramping up of these charges three times in the last three years. My letter was short (only three column inches) and heavy on facts.

On Monday 22nd July a group of Barnet residents won a case in the High Court regarding similarly eye-watering rises in charges in that borough. Mrs Justice Lang said that the 1984 Road Traffic Regulation Act “is not a fiscal measure and does not authorise the authority to use its powers to charge local residents for parking in order to raise surplus revenue for other transport purposes”. You can read about it in the Evening Standard, the Guardian and the Daily Mail. Take your pick.

Since then Barnet has decided not to appeal this judgement.

In Barnet parking permits went from £40 to £100 and visitors’ vouchers went from £1 to £4 (for an hour mind). Similar rises have happened in Ealing. Parking permits rose from £25 to £50 and £45 to £80. Visitors’ vouchers went up from 40p to 60p for some people but some went from 3 hours for 40p to one hour for 60p, a rise of 350%. Similarly all day passes went from £1 to £4. Coming after a four year freeze when the Conservatives were in power it was quite a shock. The only difference seems to be that Ealing did three rises in three years whereas Barnet alerted the public by doing one big rise.

To reinforce my case I quoted some numbers from the council’s own publications.

CPZ finances 2009-2010

In 2009/10 the council had a controlled parking income of £1.39 million. I got this figure from the final report of the Controlled Parking Zones Specialist Scrutiny Panel, see Table 1, page 11. This panel was chaired by me and I specifically asked for this information because I knew it was something that the new Labour administration would be tempted to misbehave with.

On the face of it the council demonstrated that non-CPZ users were subsidising CPZ users to the tune of £500K – £1 million in 2009/10 at the end of the Tories’ four year freeze on parking charges. This was Labour’s case for increasing CPZ charges so much.

If you look at the figures in a little more detail it seems that most of this apparent subsidy is created by including £600K of capital costs in the running costs of CPZs. This is plain ridiculous. The one off cost of implementing new CPZs should not be included in any fair assessment of ongoing running costs. It is also worth noting that a pretty generous allowance of £500K of corporate overheads was included. What business in the real world would carry almost 40% corporate overheads on a turnover of £1.39 million? These numbers show that in 2009/10 the CPZs were pretty much paying for themselves and if they weren’t it was because they were making a ridiculous contribution to corporate overheads.

Since 2009/10 the council has pushed up CPZ charges three times in three years. At the same time it has reduced services to save money. You cannot walk into Perceval House and get permits or vouchers since February. Paying for vouchers by phone saves the council more money, especially when it offloads the cost of phone payment onto customers. The vouchers have been standardised saving inventory costs. I could go on. The point is that the council’s CPZ costs have probably gone down since 2009/2010.

In the three years since the council’s income has increased 133% to £3.24 million, a rise of £1.85 million. Again these numbers come from council sources. In July the council published its Parking Annual Report.

Parking income 2012-13

This table comes from the Financial Information on page 21.

If you add “On-Street Permits and Vouchers” to suspensions and dispensations (On Street) you get £3.238 million which is the CPZ income I believe.

I think that I have made a good case for this to be looked into. On 13th August I wrote to the chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee and asked him to look at this. I followed this up with a request in person at the last meeting of the committee on 15th August where it was agreed to look at this matter. Labour needs to come clean on this.