Inside Croydon would like to apologise to its reader.
For six months or more now, Inside Croydon has been reporting on certain events surrounding Croydon on the basis that the council was being run according to policy decisions of the Conservative group that obtained a slim majority of councillors at elections held last May.
This, we now discover, is not the case.
According to local Tory councillors, Croydon Council policy is determined by public opinion.
In the past few days, Croydon Conservatives in Croham, Fairfield and in Waddon wards have sent letters to local residents talking about the changes to controlled parking zones, presenting it as if they are not the ones actually responsible for the proposals.
“The Council’s argument is that…”, the Conservatives state in their letter, as if it is nothing to do with them as part of the controlling Tory group.
In 2002, when similar proposals were put forward under a different administration, the Conservatives on Croydon Council made their opposition to the scheme very clear. The opponents of the scheme on that occasion included Councillor Phil Thomas, who as chairman of Traffic Management Cabinet Committee, heads the group that has made the 2011 proposal. Indeed, as the grandiosely titled “Cabinet Member for Environment & Highways”, it may even have been his own idea.
“Just because it wasn’t a good idea eight years ago doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea now,” Councillor Thomas has told one local newspaper.
In the Conservative councillors’ letters to residents in Croham, Fairfield and Waddon wards, they state:
“The Council’s argument is that:
- “changes in shopping habits and the night-time economy since the current hours of operation were introduced in the early 1990s have led to more people trying to park in and around the town centre in the evenings and on Sundays, reducing the number of spaces for residents”
If that is really the case, why introduce a scheme which will impact, punish even, local residents far more than casual visitors to the area? Why not simply introduce residents-only parking bays?
The letter goes on to claim that another part of “the Council’s” (ie. nuffin to do with us, guv) reasoning is…
- “changes to the hours of operation will bring them into line with those in central zone, making parking restrictions across central Croydon easier for residents and visitors to understand”.
Uh? What utterly patronising garbage: if these proposals were not just a grubby little money-maker for the Council, and they really wanted to make them “simple”, then they could simply paint double yellow lines everywhere.
But of course, by maintaining parking bays and extending the hours when non-permit holders have to pay for the privilege of using them, the Conservative councillors who are supposedly running Croydon can increase the cash that the council makes from parking fees and fines.
The Conservatives’ letter goes on to say, “As your local councillors, it is our job to represent your views.” An interesting claim, given the recent small businesses survey that says they never hear from the council. “A number of residents have already contacted us about the proposals and from the responses we have received to date it would seem that, whilst there may be a case for some extension of the hours of operation in some areas, 8am to midnight is going too far…”
In fact, no one has made any case whatsoever for any extension of the hours of operation.
But can’t these Conservative councillors not simply state that they oppose the parking proposals?
Well, actually, they do. In private correspondence with residents, one or two Conservative councillors – including one who sits on the Traffic Management Cabinet Committee – have said that they do oppose it.
“My colleagues and I are all united in opposing these new restrictions,” Cllr Tony Harris, from Waddon ward, a member of Croydon Council’s controlling Conservative group, has said in a speedy email response to one resident.
“I am opposing this publicly and live in a CPZ so share your frustrations,” wrote Pampisford Road resident Clare George-Hilley, also a member of the Conservative group that we thought was in charge of running Croydon Council.
Except she’s not opposing it very publicly, is she?
No where in the letter issued to residents in her Waddon ward does it state anywhere, “We oppose these proposals”.
Carefully toeing the party line that appears in the letter that has dropped through local letter boxes, George-Hilley passes the buck from her council front benches and on to the residents, few of whom will be allowed to attend the ultimate meeting of the council committee that will decide on this issue.
“I am hoping that enough residents write to the Council before the consultation period ends on 4th February 2011 so that the Highways Dpt will be encouraged to leave the parking restrictions as they currently stand,” she says.
An oddly reticent position from Croydon’s scion of unbridled Thatcherism.
Clearly, something odd is happening if a Conservative-run council can produce a set of proposals which Conservative councillors in the affected wards say they oppose, but who opt not to campaign against it overtly.
Why might that be?
This may be because it is a Conservative group party line that they have been forced to toe (they deny this).
It may be that, by putting forward a smokescreen proposal of deeply unpopular changes to parking zones, the inflation-busting increase in resident parking permit fees – from £48 per year to £70 – is allowed to pass by almost unnoticed, as the lesser of two evils, by residents. In this respect, they have already had a degree of success.
Or it might be that by claiming to oppose the parking zone proposals now but doing precious little to actively stop their introduction, the Conservative councillors in the more marginal wards – such as Waddon – will try to claim not to be responsible after the changes are introduced by Cllr Thomas and his committee at their meeting early next month.
That latter scenario is a particularly sticky one for Waddon’s senior Conservative councillor Simon Hoar, who sits on that very Traffic Management Committee.
Let’s hope he’s as good as his word and votes against the proposal.
Of course, a more simple explanation for the apparent disparity between what these Conservative councillors are telling the residents at their ward surgeries, and what they are saying publicly, is summed up by the old line:
“How do you know when a politician is lying?
“Because their lips move.”
- If you have not done so already, make sure you sign the petition on Croydon Council’s website by clicking here.
- It is going to take more than that, so click here to find the email address of your local councillors, and make sure that you write to them with your objections before the Feb 4 consultation deadline.
- And then make sure that you forward your objections to firstname.lastname@example.org