Croydon Council is back in Orwellian mode again. Transport correspondent, JEREMY CLACKSON, on the latest stealth tax imposed on the borough’s residents, but from which its councillors are spared
Croydon residents’ parking permits are to be hiked to up to £300 per year following a council committee meeting on Wednesday which ignored requests to phase-in the so-called emissions-based parking fees.
The Labour majority on TMAC, the council’s Transport Management Advisory Committee, which voted through the new parking fees meanwhile decided that there should be no similar charges introduced for councillors to recognise the emissions caused by the cars driven by the borough’s 70 elected representatives. Happily for them, such is the Town Hall’s new-found commitment to saving the planet, councillors will continue to receive parking permits – in some cases, two permits – completely free of charge.
As George Orwell once wrote, “All animals are created equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
Five residents spoke at the meeting arguing against the imposition of the hefty increased charges – from the current £80 per year for a resident’s parking permit up to £300 per year for those with older vehicles or vehicles which emit the most carbon.
There was not a single resident from the whole of the borough who attended the meeting to speak in support of the proposal, which council officials claim is being undertaken to help improve the environment and reduce air pollution.
Yet there was no one from environmental groups such as Friends of the Earth, the new Extinction Rebellion crew who had recently got the council to declare an environmental emergency, nor anyone from the Green Party.
Indeed, Peter Underwood, the Greens’ candidate for Croydon and Sutton at next year’s London Assembly elections, has argued that the council’s so-called emissions-based parking policy is nothing of the sort, and will adversely impact the old and the least well-off, rather than actually reduce carbon emissions.
“I support the intentions of the council’s measures, but I think they are going about it the wrong way. The problem isn’t with cars being parked, it’s with cars being driven,” Underwood has said.
From the very beginning, the council has been less than straightforward in introducing this stealth tax.
The council’s initial announcement made much of potential reductions in parking fees for those who drive the least polluting vehicles. In making that announcement, the council just forgot to mention the 375 per cent increase in charges that some residents will face.
Indeed, anyone who does not own an electric car or a hybrid with the lowest of emissions now faces a 30 per cent increase in parking levies at least, to £104 per year.
The fees then spiral upwards, depending on the levels of emissions which a car might generate: to £146 per year for a Band 4 vehicle with CO2 emissions of 166-225 g/km, rising further to £300 a year for the most polluting vehicles or those registered before March 2001.
“The rationale for the differential charges is to incentivise car owners in the decision they take about their next car,” council officials wrote, somewhat pompously, assuming that the borough’s residents might be popping down the shops at the weekend to pick up a new hybrid.
And while the council holds the name and address of all permit-holders in the borough, they failed to write to them to encourage the car owners to take part in their consultation, in a blatant effort to get the kind of result that they felt they needed.
This was an issue on which Stuart King, the Labour council cabinet member who chairs the TMAC, strongly defended council officials over, believing their claims that letters had been sent. The evidence provided, by those attending Wednesday’s meeting and in feedback from this website’s readers, is that in the vast majority of cases, letters were never sent.
All five objectors who spoke outlined how there hadn’t been a fair and proper consultation. King and the council official responsible tried to claim that some permit-holders had been informed by letter, with letters sent to those without email addresses. This despite many permit-holders maintaining that they never received an email from the council either.
In a borough where nearly 10,000 residents pay the council for the “privilege” of parking their vehicles on the street, the council got just 1,167 responses to its consultation. Of those, fewer than 40 responded to say that they supported the scheme.
More than once, it was pointed out that the council’s flawed policy does nothing to penalise those who drive their vehicles the most, and anyone wealthy enough to own a large home with off-street parking, or who got the council to drop the kerb outside their suburban house, will be entirely unaffected by the parking tax.
The council’s position on using a parking tax to stop residents polluting the atmosphere with their (stationary) cars is also entirely at odds with Town Hall policies on a range of other, highly polluting issues.
As was highlighted when a resident shouted from the public gallery: “One word: incinerator!”
Croydon Council is committed to spending £10million per year for 25 years to burn waste at the Viridor incinerator in Beddington, which will be spewing 300,000 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every 12 months.
The council’s hypocrisy on the matter of exhaust emissions is plainer still when it is considered that the Town Hall is among the biggest supporters of the £1.4billion Westfield and Hammerson redevelopment, which plans to include a 3,000-space car park to encourage people to drive into the town centre, regardless of any emissions which that might generate.
And then there is the sheer idiocy of a council which has declared a climate emergency while the council leader remains committed to supporting airport expansion at Gatwick, with Tony Newman seriously suggesting that solar-powered aircraft will in some way a realistic proposition to alleviate the pollution caused.
On Wednesday, the TMAC members who are backing a polluting incinerator referred to the impact of air pollution on asthma, and the long-term health issues for children. These are all matters which were dismissed by councillors and council officials when they decided to site a primary school next to the four-lane urban motorway that is the Purley Way. Indeed, on that occasion an unnamed council official claimed that vehicle exhaust emissions would simply be blown away on the wind…
The lack of infrastructure provided by the council to help residents use alternative, less-polluting modes of transport was raised. There are charging points at just three locations in the whole of the borough for electric cars, while conditions for cycling in most of the borough remain perilous, at best.
The council officials’ report to TMAC this week tried to minimise the discrimination against the borough’s older car-owners and the poor that is inherent in their parking tax policy.
“In context of the 148,256 (in 2016) vehicles registered in Croydon,” the report said, for some unstated reason using figures that are three years out of date, “the higher £300 band on resident permits accounts for 371 vehicles in the highest emission group and 413 that predate Mar 2001.
“This equates to 8.7 per cent of all active resident parking permits (9,048) as at the end of 2018, which are issued to residents across the whole income spectrum.”
“Proportionally, the higher charge will apply to a very small number of residents on low income. The proposed charges can therefore not be generalised as having a disproportionate effect on residents with low income,” they argued.
Yet although so few vehicles, by the council’s own data, are from the most polluting categories, officials dismissed as impossible a suggested amendment which would have phased in the increased charges over two years.
And when one of the committee members, Robert Canning, suggested that as a matter of principle that councillors who own the most-polluting cars should be included in the emissions-based parking fee scheme, that, too, was dismissed.
Clearly, some animals are more polluting than others…
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