PAUL LUSHION, our environment correspondent, reports on how a decision passed at a Town Hall committee just a few days ago didn’t manage to survive a phone call from the news desk of The S*n
Croydon’s Labour-run council leadership has been shamed into doing a hand-brake turn on one of their more craven, self-serving decisions, and all because a hack from The S*n phoned up a cabinet member and asked a few pointed questions about their unfair hike in parking permit charges.
As Inside Croydon first reported, the council wants to hike residents’ parking permits by up to 375 per cent come October, all passed off as some kind of environmentally friendly policy.
But many have seen through the “emissions-based parking charges” as nothing other than a “vicious” additional tax on those who happen to own a car. Even green activists have highlighted how Croydon’s regressive parking tax will hit the elderly and the least well-off hardest, while those driving gas-guzzling cars parked out the front of their larger and expensive homes won’t have to pay a penny.
And at the council’s Traffic Management Advisory Committee last month, where it was agreed to increase parking permits from £80 to up to £300 per year for residents, the Labour majority on TMAC voted through a decision that the borough’s councillors would still get their own parking permits free of charge. In Labour-run Croydon, it was another case of “For the few, not the many”.
But last week, there was the sound of screeching brakes heard down Katharine Street, as the TMAC chair, cabinet member Stuart King, opted to do a U-turn the moment he got a call from one of Murdoch’s minions.
In an attempt to reduce the PR damage which an adverse report in the mass-selling tabloid might do the council – and to his own political career – King has quickly reversed the decision of TMAC, and councillors who drive the most polluting vehicles will now be expected to pay a charge for the privilege of being able to park in bays and car parks all around the borough.
The newspaper report duly appeared, and King’s swift thinking managed to keep his own name out of the paper.
But there’s still other elements of the policy which is likely to cause him and his council colleagues further difficulties.
The S*n calls it a “White Van Man Tax”, and under the somewhat breathless headline “Boris Johnson urged to stop green ‘parking tax’ which would force people to pay up to £960 a year to park at work”, they detailed how the residents’ parking fees hike is just the beginning of Croydon’s new charges for vehicle owners.
According to the report, from April next year, office staff, tradesmen and shop workers could have to pay as much as £750 a year to park at their business.
And doctors may be charged up to £960 to park at their surgeries. “And even NHS and community care workers will be hit for up to £480,” reported the tabloid.
The paper quoted a representative of the AA as saying, “Croydon’s plans to tax people hundreds of pounds just to park on these roads is vicious.”
But the council wheeled out a “spokesman” to issue a lie on the record.
“We take air pollution in our borough very seriously and are determined to play our part in helping to improve the environment for residents, now and for future generations,” said someone from the Goebbels Institute for Truth and Transparency (previously the Croydon Council press office), probably while they had their fingers crossed behind their back hoping that they wouldn’t be called out for the bullshit inherent in the statement.
Because while Croydon slaps a £300 charge on OAPs and the poor just because they own older vehicles, all in the apparent cause of reducing vehicle emissions, the council leader, Tony Newman, seems to think that solar-powered passenger planes are a realistic option and make his backing for a second runway at Gatwick in some way acceptable, he defends the council’s supine support for Westfield plans to build a 3,000-space car park in the town centre, and does nothing to stop the council paying nearly £1million per month to contract with Viridor to burn rubbish – including radioactive waste – at the Beddington incinerator.
None of which, of course, will do anything but make Croydon’s already toxic air quality worse than it is already. But at least Councillor King kept his name out of The S*n.
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