WALTER CRONXITE on another cut in council services which seems to offer irresponsible drivers free rein to park their cars wherever they like
What follows is a sentence that has never before appeared on Inside Croydon: We agree with Phil Thomas.
Since the start of this month, the council’s tow trucks, used to remove illegally parked cars, have been off the road, no longer operating, the latest consequence of Tory cuts to local services.
Now this is probably not something which will directly benefit Councillor Thomas, who is notorious for having claimed two parking permits to be able to park his cars free of charge, as long as he is on “official council business”.
“Two Permits” Thomas, who is known for his frequently florid-faced and phlegm-specked speeches in the Town Hall chamber, described the decision to scrap the council’s tow trucks as a “complete and utter shambles”.
“I accept it may save some money but residents’ safety has to come first,” Thomas, a Conservative councillor for Selsdon ward, said. “It is a huge mistake because there is a minority of irresponsible drivers who park their cars in the most dangerous places and put people at risk.”
And you can’t argue with that.
The council has the power to remove illegally parked vehicles or those parked dangerously, such as on the pavement or blocking someone’s driveway. But the council is not under any obligation to do that, and since November 1, the vehicle removal lorries have been off the road and the Factory Lane car pound is set to close (it remains open this month, to enable drivers to collect their vehicles).
In future, traffic wardens will simply fix parking ticket after parking ticket under the wipers of illegally parked cars – but if, for instance, they have been left in a residents’ parking bay without a permit, the car will remain in place. Croydon’s already congested roads might be about to get just that little bit more jammed.
The decision to stop towing cars and close the pound appears to be another penny-wise, pound-foolish move by Croydon’s Labour-run council.
The bounty-hunting tow trucks seemed to be a lucrative little number for the council, with the pound charging £200 to every driver who wanted the return of their towed car, on top of the £60 penalty charge notice, as well as £40 for every day the car had been in the pound, levied laughably as a “storage” fee.
The council reckoned that the towing and pound operation had cost Council Tax-payers £1.45 million over the course of the last six years.
Yet according to the council’s own figures, parking permits from residents, visitors and businesses brings in £994,000 per year, cash which is ring-fenced and only to be used on road works and traffic projects… you’d think such as towing away illegally parked vehicles.
Indeed, when residents are forced to fork out for another new set of shock absorbers for their old jalopy because of the pounding it receives from driving over the borough’s pot-holed roads, they might be entitled to ask quite what their parking permit money is being spent on.
The wretched state of Croydon’s roads is not something that happened overnight: they have been allowed to deteriorate over several years. It was Phil Thomas, when the Tories were in power from 2006 until 2014, who was in charge of the maintenance, or lack of it, of the council-controlled highways.
Some might have imagined that the current council was planning some mega-millions property scheme, closing the pound in order to use the land for some kind of money-spinning regeneration development. But no. The site of the pound is shared with the special educational needs transport service, which will continue to use it as a parking area.
Where we don’t agree with Phil Thomas was his claim, readily swallowed by the local paper, that dangerously parked vehicles and abandoned cars will no longer be towed and that the council “has no Plan B” to remove them.
Contrary to Thomas’s claim, the council does have a third-party provider lined up for abandoned vehicles.
“If vehicles parked on the highway are posing a risk to the safety of road users they will be removed – in the same way that abandoned vehicles are removed – by our third-party provider,” a council spokesman told Inside Croydon.
It is not known whether Tory Phil Thomas has been lobbying Conservative Chancellor Gideon Osborne to make good the £4 million-plus loss to Croydon Council’s budget from the removal of a grant for looking after unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.
Nor has Inside Croydon received any information to suggest that Thomas – who has only ever been seen at the wheel of one car at any one time – has offered to return his second free council parking permit or – like most other borough residents – pay for it.
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