Council applies emergency brake on New Year parking hike

CROYDON IN CRISIS: Transport correspondent JEREMY CLACKSON reports on how Fisher’s Folly officials have been forced into a sudden U-turn over their money-spinning ’emissions-based’ parking charges

Council car parks and parking bays across the borough were meant to have a 30% fee hike on New Year’s Day

New car parking charges, due to come into force at council-run car parks and parking bays from January 1, have been stalled.

The 30 per cent hike in charges, which the council claimed would encourage people to avoid using older, more polluting vehicles, has been pulled after the scheme was subject to a late “call-in” by Labour and Conservative councillors on the scrutiny committee.

As Inside Croydon revealed last year, the bankrupt council was trying to introduce the emissions-based parking charges on the cheap, and so was going to charge all vehicles, even eco-friendly electric cars, the same amount, and leave it to individual drivers then to claim refunds if they owned vehicles which qualified for the parking discount.

The parking fee hike and – especially – the loss of free-parking periods has outraged many shop-owners, pubs, restaurants and cafés, who in 2020 endured the toughest trading conditions since the end of the Second World War.

Call-in: scrutiny member Joy Prince

Business-owners in South Norwood, Thornton Heath, New Addington Central Parade, Purley, Coulsdon Town centre, Beulah Hill, Addiscombe and South Croydon would all be affected by the changes to emissions-based parking charges and the end of free-parking periods.

The terms of the scrutiny call-in are unambiguous in the councillors’ suspicions that the increased parking charges are more about money-making for the Town Hall than any real concern for the environment.

The cash-strapped council’s own estimates suggest that after implementation costs of £75,000, the increased parking charges would generate £200,000 extra income every year.

In a public consultation, which ended in October, fewer than 5 per cent of respondents were in favour of the scheme. Of the more than 600 responses received by the council, 88 per cent were against the proposals.

Now, to those sceptics the names can be added of Sean Fitzsimons, the Addiscombe West Labour councillor who chairs the scrutiny committee, plus Joy Prince, Jerry Fitzpatrick (both also Labour) and the committee’s vice-chair, Tory councillor Robert Ward.

The committee call-in was issued on December 23, little more than a week before the parking charge hike was due to begin.

The scheme will now be discussed at a scrutiny committee meeting on Thursday.

According to the meeting’s agenda papers, “Croydon Council is not allowed to use car parking charges as a fiscal measure… The timing of this increase argues that this is exactly how the measure is being used.”

The councillors have found two instances of the emissions-based parking charges appearing in documents about “managing emergency funds for the council”.

Call-in scrutiny member Robert Ward

They say that while the income from parking “… will be ring-fenced, it seems as if Croydon is now trying to fund a higher proportion of the road maintenance budget from parking charges. This effectively frees up money from elsewhere, or prevents cuts elsewhere. Either way, it is using car parking charges as a fiscal measure.

“If the council is anticipating additional funds as a result of these measures (and it is), please can it provide evidence… how it will use these funds to better maintain Croydon’s roads. Especially as it is now planning to only maintain roads to ‘safest minimum levels’.”

The councillors also highlight that car usage in Croydon is already falling, without resort to the new parking charges, “So that can’t be a justification for introducing the policy now.”

And they say that the increased charges are “inconsistent with another council policy”.

They write, “The council has stated that one of its corporate priorities is to support and encourage local businesses. These charges will be bad for local businesses, especially when combined with the corresponding decision to remove free parking bays.”

The councillors identify Shirley, Addiscombe, Selsdon, Crystal Palace and Coulsdon as local business and shopping areas which could be hard-hit by increased parking charges, as they border Bromley, where parking fees are cheaper, or Caterham, where parking is generally free.

In the firing line: council exec director Shifa Mustafa

“In recent years, the council has made parking cheaper on the basis that this is what local businesses need to thrive. What evidence is there that this situation has changed?”

Expected to face the music on Thursday is Shifa Mustafa, the council’s exec director of Place responsible for the policy, and Councillor Muhammad Ali, the new cabinet member for sustainable Croydon, who inherited the controversial proposals in October when he took over the brief from Stuart King, now the deputy leader of the council.

Mustafa and Ali will be expected to deliver detailed analysis of car ownership across the borough, any assessments carried out by the council on the possible impact on local businesses, and to try to explain what road maintenance to “safest minimum levels” actually means.

The emissions-based parking proposals have failed to convince even committed environmentalists, who have expressed doubts that parking fees would really have any significant impact of car usage. “This is dogma rather than evidence-based policy-making,” a Katharine Street source told Inside Croydon today.

Read more: Bankrupt borough could be left counting the cost of neglect


About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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8 Responses to Council applies emergency brake on New Year parking hike

  1. CentralCroydon says:

    Could someone remind me who the director in charge of parking is please.

  2. Joe Clark says:

    Teflon Steve Iles strikes again, but why is it he is not facing the music along with his friend Shifa?

    Speak to any of the small businesses, shops and restaurants in any of the district centres in and around Croydon, they will all tell you the same thing, this guy has ruined the local economy and local businesses with his ridiculous parking rules and charges since he became director. Something needs to be done about him, and Shifa Mustafa. They are Jo Negreedy relics that need removing from the council directors forthwith. Only then will residents possibly have some belief in Ms Kerswell and her new team.

  3. Lewis White says:

    Good news that Councillors have called in this proposal.
    The inclusion of electric vehicles is clearly daft.

    Penalising the person with an older car is defintely going to penalise the least well-off , many older and many younger people who can’t afford a newer car, who need to have their existing car to do or get to their work and do exactly the same as the rest of us–go shopping, go out for the occasional drive to meet family or friends of visit the coast or go to a nice place out in the country….. take family to activities not served well by public transport, hospital visits etc etc.

    Clearly, some brave Labour councillors have made that connection. Hats off to them, and supporting Conservatives

    I read somewhere that older cars do less mileage, anyway, so overall, they are adding less pollution. By the way, if we are talking of pollution, there is a strong case to keep cars on the road until their sell-by date, as scrappage and making a new one adds tonnes and tonnes of CO2 to the atmosphere. It is all rather complicated.

    If we really want to charge fairly and discourage pollution, national government needs to introduce a miles travelled payment, relating poluution to miles travelled. I think that is called road pricing.

    Carers, delivery drivers, reps and certain other drivers who have to drive many miles each day to do their jobs would need to pay less.

    Labour councils should be caring about the less well-off, as well as trying to reduce pollution.

    As to people having to reclaim money, how mad. Who has the time needed to mess about on the computer doing such tasks ? Life is full f stresses— having to do that would be yet another straw on the long-suffering camel’s back.

    How many admin staff would be needed to administer all that ?. What saving would be made?
    Bonkers and unfair.

  4. Ken Burgess says:

    The New Addington Business Partnership campaigned for many years to obtain limited free parking for local shopping centres. Eventually Croydon Council agreed to a pilot experiment on Central Parade which ran for twelve months. We were informed that parking revenues had not been negatively impacted and as a consequence the practice of a free half hour parking facility was rolled out across the Borough. This has proved to be of great benefit to the traders on Central Parade by encouraging more visits to our local shops and of course environmentally helping to reduce vehicle journeys out of the area.
    When lock down first occurred free parking was made available to everybody to encourage the stay local campaign. Parking charges eventually returned with the free half hour remaining. We are frequently informed that parking revenues are not designed as a means of generating extra cash but to maintain the current service.
    The original assessment demonstrated that the introduction of free parking had no impact on revenues, nothing has changed therefor there is no additional cost to the Council by retaining the free half hour. Huge benefits however will be lost with its removal by encouraging increased vehicle travel in the search for free parking. Another barrier will be raised to discourage local shopping and a great deal of resentment will be generated against the Council both by shoppers and local traders.
    Ken Burgess
    Chair Central Parade Business Partnership

  5. “In recent years, the council has made parking cheaper on the basis that this is what local businesses need to thrive. What evidence is there that this situation has changed?”

    What evidence is there that this was ever true and is valid today?

    The ultimate form of cheaper parking is free parking. In 2012 London Councils’ cross-party policy group performed a thorough meta-analysis of the existing academic and public agency research on the role of parking in urban commerce. It also sent parking questionnaires to all 33 London boroughs and conducted market research with shoppers at three commercial centres in the outer regions.

    The resulting report, “The relevance of parking in the success of urban centres”, concluded that there is no such thing as free parking, and “it is local taxpayers who pick up the cost of provision if revenue is not sufficient to cover costs”. The same rules apply to parking that is too cheap.

    Crucially, the report noted that “in all the studies that looked at shoppers’ mode of travel, shopkeepers have consistently overestimated the proportion of their customers who come by car. In some cases this overestimation approaches 100 per cent compared to the actual figure”.

    In 2018 Living Streets updated its report, “The Pedestrian Pound”. Amongst other things it found that “two thirds of shopping trips are made by car, even though many of these are short and potentially walkable.” That means avoidable congestion and unnecessary air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, damaging to human health and the planet. It noted that “there is strong evidence that pedestrians and cyclists spend more than people arriving by motorised transport”.

    By all means review the proposal to increase parking charges, but let’s have evidence-based decision-making that also takes into proper account the climate emergency the council and the government are meant to be tackling and the air quality targets they are meant to be achieving.

    • Dan Maertens says:

      Hear Hear Austen!

      Your last paragraph nails it, we’re in a climate, and physical & mental health emergency due to the effects of the pandemic and associated lockdowns and we’re banging on about where I can park ‘my car’ for la consideration when for the vast majority of those that use these local car parking facilities there are alternative sustainable means of getting to and from the shopping areas that they serve – walking and cycling – with the associated benefits to the individual and the wider community. The evidence really is out there. I’m all for ‘doing things better’, but sometimes it’s better to ‘do better things’.

  6. Lewis White says:

    Surely, free parking is great for the car-driver who gets the car in the free parking spot first, but what about the person who arrives an hour later and can’t get a space?. There has to be an incentive to get the visitor in to the local centre, spend some money, then depart, not hog the space all day for no payment. So the next person can do the same, and spend their hard-earned cash in the local small shops.

    Half an hour or one hour free on street or other municipal parking encourages the motor-borne local shopper or visitor to the barber or coffee shoppe to get their shopping, haircut or have their coffee, then back to their car and zip off home, thus freeing up the space for the next arrival. This must be good for the local small businesses typical of our local centres around the borough.

    If people want to stay longer, let them pay…a reasonable charge.
    Visitors doing a bigger shop will probably be going to the supermarket, and parking free in the supermarket car park.

    The council provides on-street parking via meters, and in some places, a public car park with ticket machine or “park by phone” . Providing land for, and building and running car parks, and marking out bays, and wardening, all costs the council money, so it seems only fair for motorists to pay a fee that pays the council’s costs and makes a resonable profit, without charging drivers far too much and making them a “cash cow”.

    It would be very instructive to look back at the prices charged over each of the last 40 years, and compare them with the wage and salary levels of the time. My guess is that parking now is not more expensive than then, but, naturally, we all baulk with the prospect of paying many £ssss to park in a town centre multi storey, when parking on the Purley Way, Valley Park and other “out of town centres” is free. This could be one reason why Croydon’s multi storeys are almost empty nowadays, but were full in the 70’s before “out of town shopping”. OK, there are many other reasons, all intertwined.

    Car park charging is an art, and the parker does not want to feel ripped off. Hearts and minds, that’s what it’s all about.

  7. Former council worker says:

    It is obviously solely about raising revenue, if it was genuinely about emissions and the environment then they would’ve just applied discounts to the current charging structure, rather than increasing the charges first then applying a discount

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