In the words of the soon-to-appear-in-Croydon Harry Hill (remember where you read about that first): Fight!
Barwell (@GavinBarwellMP) is a relative newcomer to the 140-character medium, Godfrey (@timothygodfrey) is a somewhat more experienced Tweeter.
Via Twitter and their respective blogs – both among the better examples of local accountability, and far more up-to-date than other elected Croydon representatives – they have engaged in a spat following last week’s controversial council decision on controlled parking zones.
The residents who drove most of the campaign really do not care less about the party politics involved. “I’m not interested in Conservative or Labour, blue or red – I’m interested in democracy,” one of the campaigners said over the weekend, a view echoed by several within the residents’ campaign group.
“The people have spoken on this issue – when they were previously silenced by a ‘consultation’ that they didn’t even know took place.”
Both Barwell and Godfrey opposed Councillor Phil “Two Permit” Thomas’s proposals. Barwell did so at last week’s council meeting, even suggesting that Thomas and his traffic management committee ought to have been more apologetic over its handling of the consultation process.
It was soon after this admission to residents that Barwell seems to have “disengaged”, opting not to get involved with a Croydon North constituency matter, despite his Croydon Central constituents having provided a very strong mandate to oppose the proposals borough-wide. After all, is there any Croydon resident or their family who has not had cause to use or visit Mayday Hospital at some point?
But Barwell took the view that it was not in his constituency. Having already spoken critically of the council’s handling of its “flawed” consultation, the Westminster new boy – who owes his seat to funding from serial tax dodger Lord Ashcroft – may have felt he had already gone out on a limb with his party colleagues sufficiently on this matter.
- On Twitter tonight, Godfrey accused Barwell of misleading his constituents. “You misled your constituents that the council had listened. They haven’t. They are imposing scheme on north #Croydon.”
- Barwell responded: “I objected, Council listened, no change in my constituency. You + fellow cllrs did nothing, Council going ahead. Go figure”
What is odd, though, is that Croydon North’s MP, Malcolm Wicks, had lodged a written objection to the council’s proposals. Somehow the council saw fit not to include the Labour MP’s letter in its official report.
It was a Tory councillor speaking at last week’s meeting that let the cat out of the bag when he admitted that the council was looking to car-owning residents to stump up more cash.
Today, it emerged quite why “Two Permits” Thomas and his team copped a deaf ‘un as far as the northern zone is concerned: according to the council’s own figures, the N zone area is a parking gold mine which already generates £500,000 a year in on-street fees alone.
Godfrey’s latest blog on the fall-out from the parking matter provides detailed figures on the revenue the council makes from on-street parking in all the zones around the borough. N zone last year generated £536,000, or more than 40 percent of the total on-street parking income from across the zones that were subject to the proposals.
Godfrey’s blog also highlights how the council has been entirely selective in choosing to apply its proposals based on objections, or the lack of them, street-by-street throughout the borough.
Nearly a week after the meeting, and now Barwell appears to have got closer to the Tory council’s party line by writing to his constituents about how the proposal had been dropped “(apart from in a few roads around Mayday Hospital where residents want something done)”.
It is that parenthetical phrase which really appears to have got Godfrey’s goat, since only the smallest minority of residents on one street in that area have ever called for stricter, longer and more expensive parking controls.
The point was made at last week’s meeting at the Town Hall that only 2 per cent of respondents in the N zone area had objected to the proposals. Some crude form of implied consent was then used to claim that the silence of the other 98 per cent of residents meant that they actively wanted more incovenient and expensive parking controls in their streets.
This 2 per cent figure is obviously inaccurate, since the council did not check the addresses of all the signatories of the petitions it received, nor did it properly register all the individual complaints.
Nor – as Barwell himself agreed – did the council adequately ensure that all residents were even aware of the consultation process, rendering the whole business somewhat conveniently self-fulfilling: run consultation > don’t tell all residents > receive no objections > go ahead as originally intended!