Friday, 3 February 2012

Marine Parade parking - the ongoing challenge

The recent survey into parking stress across the Marine Estate has failed to highlight any clear messages.

The overall response rate of 45% was very high for a survey of this kind but of those responding 58.7% did not consider that there was any parking problem in their street and 59.8% said they would not be supportive of any type of parking controls being introduced.

This is very frustrating for those residents who feel strongly that action is required however it is important that any measures have the clear support of a majority of effected residents.There have been many examples in the past where a scheme appears to have support but following implementation the "silent majority" express their anger. This is even more relevant where funds are tight and where it is essential that the few schemes implemented have public support.

The survey did result in a number of more localised suggestions and we will continue to work to identify and implement changes which do have majority support and help to resolve the problems caused by excessive commuter parking and, rat running and speeding.

Scrutiny what scrutiny?

The Administration's Draft Budget was considered by the Economic & Enviromental Scrutiny Committee last night in a discussion that lasted almost one and a half hours. Whilst we made some progress with the Lib Dems (see below) the Independent Party team of Messrs Terry & Woodley failed to cover themselves with glory. They failed to raise any issues, comments or queries on the main revenue budget at all nothwithstanding the suggested savings of £11M. In an overall council budget of approaching £500M they spent most of their effort concentrating on a small item on car parking charges which was agreed during last years budget without comment from them and in respect of which no change is proposed this year. We had the usual claptrap on the level of council borrowing - an argument they have lost many times in the past - and yet whilst complaining about borrowing they continue to refuse to identify any capital schemes which they would not pursue. At least Martin Terry acknowledged that after 9 years on the council he still didn't understand how to read the accounts which may explain why he constantly misinterprets them. My favourite part of the evening was Cllr Woodley's declaration that "I am a Conservative". Interesting but then he also claims to be a financial expert.

Who says we won't listen?

Over recent years opposition parties have complained that it is not worth them making proposals as to budget amendments because the Administration does not listen. Events over the last week have proved them wrong. The Lib Dems have recently raised a number of issues including whether we can find funds to reintroduce limited free swimming for the over 65s. I have discussed this with cabinet and officers and identified that we can allocate some health funding for 2 years with a review in 18 months. We have also agreed that we will re launch the Advantage Card which can be accommodated within the existing budget and have agreed to request a paper on the financial and practical ramifications of offering council tax rebates to special constables.

I have repeatedly invited opposition groups to use our process of extended scrutiny of the budget to come up with budget amendments/suggestions which are either cost neutral or proposed with a corresponding saving on the understanding that we will carefully consider them and if we think they are reasonable accept them. I am pleased that the Lib Dem group have raised these suggestions, which have a negligible financial effect and which we are happy to implement. Perhaps other groups will follow this lead which has been sadly missing from all opposition parties over recent years.