No Sh*t Sherlock

Sherlock Holmes 1894The week end press reports that following the destruction of parking meters in Cardigan (Wales) high street sales increased.
Marcus Jones, the Government High Streets Minister has suggested that small town centres could become “parking meter-free zones” in an effort to save shops from closure. The Government is growing increasingly concerned that punitive parking costs and fines are deterring shoppers from using their local high streets.
Small stores are going out of business as people increasingly shop online and use supermarkets to avoid parking charges.
At last the penny has dropped, people prefer the free parking at supermarkets to paying for parking at Council car park sites. Hadleigh High Street is a good example where parking at Morrison’s is simple and free whereas when one uses the Co-op and the Council car park you have to get a free ticket to show your latest permitted  time of departure.
And yet, even as late as last year, a senior Babergh District Conservative Councillor told me that parking charges would have to go up in 2016/17 because of budget gaps. These are the people for whom there can never be enough evidence to overturn an entrenched view.
Where is the application of the Primum non nocere principle which means “first, do no harm?”  In practical Local Government governance this means that it may be better not to do something, or even to do nothing, than to risk causing more harm than good.
Ministers have warned, “The law clearly states that parking fines should not be used as a way of generating revenue.” The Department for Communities and Local Government has advised that  any local authority found to be using parking fines as a way to make money could face reduced levels of government funding.
(Of course parking fines and parking charges are two different things, so I do not rule out Babergh bringing in short term car parking charges in the belief that this time it will all be different!)
More details can be found on

Smartphone Parking Payment Systems

Brighton ParkingThe Daily Mail reports that although Brighton Council has arranged lessons in local libraries to teach residents how to use the new smart phone parking payment system it does nothing to help out-of-town visitors.
Hence at least one visitor chooses to go elsewhere since if people need lessons in how to use a parking meter there is probably something wrong with the whole procedure.
Hadleigh has various car parking facilities,  one of which (off Bridge Street by Corks Lane) is available for public use but not posted as such. Another car park has a two tier system whereby even short stay users can stay free of charge in the long term parking provided an appropriate ticket is obtained and displayed. As least one senior councillor has purchased a long term ticket for a short term stay as he found the system confusing.
If Hadleigh had a simpler system would more people visit the town and would those who do visit have a happier experience.

The photo is taken from which contains some interesting views on Brighton’s parking issues.

Three Cheers for Tendring

Mistley TowersYesterday’s East Anglia Daily Times reports  that Tendring District Council’s innovative free parking scheme is being hailed a success after businesses said they have seen a significant increase in footfall.  The Council is set to continue the popular initiative which allows people to use their car parks for 12 hours during the day completely free of charge. A survey carried out by the local authority on hundreds of businesses found that around 50% had noticed a higher footfall through their town centres since the free permits were issued to households. Approximately 30% of businesses said they noticed an increase in the number of customers coming through their doors. Tendring introduced the scheme at the end of July last year. Every council taxpaying household in the district was issued with a free parking permit for use at any of the council’s 25 car parks from 10 a.m. to midnight. Tendring District Council’s initiative has seen town centres buck the national trend, encouraging shoppers to visit their local retailers. Business leaders in Suffolk last night said the success of the scheme “bursts the balloon” of those who claim there is no correlation between free parking and increase in footfall. Mark Cordell, chief executive of town centre business improvement group Bid4Bury, said: “This scheme is a great example of the local authority listening to, and acting upon, the views of businesses. It is no surprise to me that it has been a huge success”.
Three cheers for a council that sees car parking as support for commercial well-being and not as some form of cash cow useful for balancing the cash flow deficit The full reports can be read on (

Car Parking & Other Matters

On Tuesday 13th  (December) I took part in Babergh’s Joint Overview & Scrutiny (Community Services) and (Stewardship) meeting. I appointed myself as initial chairman of the meeting so that we could elect a chairman (not me!). The chief purpose of this meeting was to recommend to the Strategic Financial Planning Task Group the key options for the draft budget. The Council faces a substantial reduction in Government funding. After some considerable debate the Committee overwhelmingly opted for the following recommendations:

  • ·         Council Tax to rise by 3.5%. This will increase our tax base, give us additional revenue of £45,000 and will ameliorate future shortfalls. After the increase we will still have the second lowest Band D in Suffolk. The additional cost will be less than £5 per year per Band D property.
  • ·         To leave the present car parking regime unchanged.(The Portas review was published this morning). (see
  • ·         To use up to £3000,000 (s.t.c.) of the £924,000 received from  the Government as a New Homes Bonus (based upon past performance) to balance budgets – or to put it another way to invest and support the social investments represented by our car parks.

The recommendations were all against the Executive’s recommendations (which would have been cleared beforehand with members of more senior committees) and have yet to make their way through the various decision channels before coming to the full council in February.

So it remains to be seen how far democratic principles will prevail and the New Year promises to be interesting.