Croydon Council, having failed in its attempt to force through Draconian parking restrictions in the centre of the borough earlier this year, has today launched a second consultation which has already attracted strong criticism and complaints from local councillors and community groups.
One local councillor has derided the latest attempt as “mad hat”, while a significant community group in the affected area has called the consultation “fundamentally flawed”.
The latest consultation is being overseen by Tory councillor Phil “Two Permits” Thomas, who since his failure to push through his money-making scheme has resorted to making threats of police action against anti-parking campaigners, and has had at least one banned from the Town Hall in a transparent attempt to bully and intimidate opposition to his ill-conceived scheme.
A robust residents’ campaign earlier this year overwhelmingly rejected a council proposal to extend the hours of parking controlled zones in central areas of Croydon to 8am until midnight, seven days a week. Undeterred in the face of grassroots democracy in action, Thomas then attempted to impose the cash-raising scheme in an area in the north of the borough, near Mayday Hospital.
When this latter move was “called-in”, even Thomas’s Tory mates on the scrutiny committee insisted that a new, better consultation with the local community needed to be carried out. The process launched today – at additional cost to local Council Tax-payers – is the consequence.
But Alison Butler, the sole Labour councillor on Croydon’s traffic management committee that is chaired by “Two Permits”, has sent a damning letter to the council officer administering the consultation after she was excluded from the drafting process.
Inside Croydon has obtained a copy of Councillor Butler’s letter sent to council officer Dave Wakeling.
Butler is a councillor for Bensham Manor, in an area affected by the latest parking proposals. Her letter complains that the council’s consultation makes no reference to “the mass objections already made by local residents since the traffic management committee”, and is critical over the confusing way the council document has been drafted.
Butler says the document “implies that the plan will go ahead if the majority are in favour but is ‘unlikely’ to go ahead if people want the current arrangements to stand. Why ‘unlikely’, why not say it will not go ahead?”
The criticisms of the previous consultation process included that it was ill-conceived, confusing and had failed properly to consult all affected areas, especially in the ethnically diverse northern part of the borough. The Croydon Mosque claimed that they had not been notified at all.
Now, officials at the Oshwal Centre local community group have written to the council with further complaints. They call this latest consultation “fundamentally flawed”.
“We believe that the council should drop the extension to CPZ controls in the northern part of the North Permit Zone as it has done for other areas to achieve its aim of consistency across the borough,” they write, apparently fearing that the proposals are deliberately discriminatory against one of Croydon’s poorest areas.
“It would be wiser for the Council to avoid wasting any more public money by not undertaking this consultation as now that people are aware, the response will be overwhelmingly to object to the proposals.
“To continue with this consultation, the Council would be failing in its duty to have accountability on the use of financial resources,” says the letter from the Oshwal Centre, which speaks on behalf of hundreds of local residents.
The Oshwal Centre’s letter says that the latest consultation process deliberately ignores a number of the recommendations of Steve Hollands, the Conservative chairman of the council’s scrutiny committee, and as a result disenfranchises those in the north of the borough for whom English is their second language.They write: “At the Overview & Scrutiny Committee meeting on 1 March 2011, several shortcomings were identified in the consultation process and the decision making process. It was agreed to re-consult by writing to all the residents. To reflect the diversity of the population, this letter to consult would include other languages.
“To have a statement that they can access interpretation services in English is meaningless for someone who cannot read English in the first place or is illiterate. Letters must be written in all languages applicable and sent to residents.”
They also object to the council now introducing another option for the changes in parking restrictions as being “not fair and … open to challenge”. It is unclear, they say, how the council will consult local shops, businesses and religious and community groups.
There are strong suspicions among campaigners that the council is trying to move the goalposts, by offering street-by-street changes to parking restrictions rather than judging the response across the area as a whole, which is expected to be overwhelmingly against.
“This needs to be made clear so that there is no ambiguity,” writes the Oshwal Centre.
Timothy Godfrey, Labour councillor in nearby Selhurst Ward, was also denied sight of the consultation document before its release. He says, “The last time the council ‘consulted’ the roads in this area returned the same level of ‘No thank yous’ as 65 other roads in the original (larger) consultation area.
“This was not good enough for the Tory Cabinet member (Councillor Thomas) who took this as meaning that local residents wanted an 8am – midnight parking scheme in their area. Why he did not inflict this on the 65 other roads has never been answered.
“The impact on residents will be significant. Visitors in the evening or weekends will have to pay the expensive meter fees or have to purchase visitor permits (permits which you can’t buy on line and take an age to arrange).”
For more coverage of the campaign against the council’s parking proposals, and for links to the relevant petitions, click here.