Monday, December 19, 2011

The Perils of Parking

I've written about financial common sense before and today’s Conservative Group press release on the review of free parking in Thanet may make for salutary reading for Cllr Worrow in Birchington. To attempt to decide the future of the island against a demand for special treatment for one town, smacks of political gerrymandering. It may well be that Clive Hart views this as fair exchange for his support of a Labour administration. However, this has yet to be decided and it will be interesting to see where the decision goes in Cabinet when the Labour Group finally grasp the real budget impact.

To recap however, we need to remind ourselves the nature of the parking review which was underway when the Conservative administration left office on 8th December.

Parking had been withdrawn from the annual fees and charges review, and a changed parking regime was to be consulted with members and others across the island in January 2012; for public consultation after presentation to Cabinet in March, for implementation in June.

The highlights of this review were:

Parking was to be more demand led.

Free parking to be available to help traders every Saturday of the year in one car park in each of the towns: Alpha Road, Birchington; Harold Road, for Northdown Road; Mill Lane, Margate; Cannon Road Ramsgate; Vere Road Broadstairs.

This  solution was seen as representing an affordable model at a time of restricted budgets, costing  approximately £12,000 to the overall parking budget.

My colleague, Chris Wells, Shadow Cabinet Member for Communities has added:

We left in place a simple, affordable model for parking, ready to be consulted upon for implementation next year. In addition the parking review was set to investigate what could be additionally done to assist lives of residents near and around the QEQM Hospital, many of whose lives have been reduced to misery by the hospital’s poor management of their own parking facilities. I hope the incoming administration has the common sense to adopt these simple proposals, and not skew them in favour of particular areas of the island for political reasons.’

Residents are bound to ask about the costs and when this proposal from Cllr Worrow first appeared, it was determined that the cost of implementing thirty minutes free parking in Birchington car parks would be a little under £10,000. However, the cost of implementing thirty minutes free parking for Birchington High Street,  what he appeared to be seeking, would be more than £40,000.

It would be very difficult to give a special exemption to one town in Thanet, particularly where a pivotal vote was involved, so  extended to the island as a whole, the cost of implementing thirty minutes initial free car parking would be £233,000. This is more than 43% of car parking income and to achieve such a thing in the very challenging financial conditions facing Thanet, these sums would have to be made up from council tax increases or reduced budgets elsewhere.

Does offering special exemption for Birchington present financial common sense I wonder and with six weeks left before the budget, where I wonder will the money come from to replace the lost income across the island?

Now I wonder if the Thanet Gazette will run the figures?

62 comments:

Readit said...

Simon, Chris Wells has recently warned us not to believe his political press releases, and this one is utter tosh.

Birchingon, Station Road (High St) on-street parking less than 40 spaces, free half hour costs £40,000 per year

Five car parks (approx 700) spaces free every Saturday throughout the year costs £12,000

And while we are on this subject why are 432 of the free 700 spaces available in Margate, no preference there then.

DrM. said...

Ken

Obviously the council shares its figures with you first and the rest of us are kept in the dark, like mushrooms!

You believe what you want to believe if it keeps you happy!

Readit said...

Simon, If you think the Thanet population will believe this rubbish you have got head stuck in the sand, anyone who can count can see the numbers do not add up, or are you relying on the Thanet massive being mathematically challenged.

No comment on Mill Lane then?

John Worrow said...

Councillor Moores

Conservative Councillors, Simon Day and Keith Coleman-Cooke, fully support the Independent parking motion; are they the only members of Thanet's unique version of the blue party that have actually read the Mary Portas Report?

Without more affordable parking, shops are at greater risk of closing, costing us far more due loss of business rates etc.

I won't go into detail about the budget yet, but I am meeting with the leader this week to discuss a numbers of ideas, that will benefit the whole of Thanet, not just a few streets in Margate!

(I would like to point out that I will not be responding to anonymous comments)

DrM. said...

Ken, if you had your way, the population of Thanet would be asked to believe the world was flat and that he streets of Margate were paved with Gold paid for by the residents of Ramsgate.

Numbers are numbers, there's no escaping them!

Readit said...

So you are happy with 62% of the free Saturday parking to be in Margate then?

This is what the Conservative Group calls "fair" is it?

I pay my council tax for facilities in Ramsgate and whilst you continue to maintain "black is white" I will continue to contest it.

DrM. said...

John, Mary Portas makes a number of interesting recommendations and she appears to approve the real progress made in Margate.

However, she has no responsibility for achieving a balanced budget in Thanet and as you will know, the laudable ambition of free parking involves taking funds from elsewhere at a time when we are struggling to maintain services. The question is where and who pays for the shortfall?

I'm sure Councillor Hart will welcome your ideas.

Michael Child said...

Something awry with your figures here Simon, if the total paid town centre Thanet parking is equivalent to a loss of 233K and the loss of the parking in Birchington High Street is equivalent to a loss of 40K, about a sixth of 233K, then it follows that a sixth of Thanet’s parking is in Birchington High Street.

Back to the drawing board I think, I don’t want you to fall out with Ken, I don’t think he is on the other side, as it were.

DrM. said...

Ken... And there was me thinking it was 61.5% !!

I am trying to imagine a meeting where council officers count up all the parking spaces in Thanet and divide the free ones up equally, regardless of local street geography!

Wake up Ken.. Council tax only makes less than a 20% contribution to running some 600 services across Thanet. The remainder comes from Goverment grants and like every other deprived and dependent authority, we have lost a huge chunk of this. You take out the parking fees income and something else will have to give....

Our new financial wizard will have to decide what that might be

DrM. said...

Michael.. I am told it is not as simple as a quick ratio but have asked Chris Wells to come on and deal with the detail when he gets back as he has the bigger picture.

Readit said...

Simon, I think it is you and your colleagues who need to wake up, whether it is 62% or 61.5%, as you say numbers are numbers, there is no escaping them and it is a sad indictment of your local party that they are happy such figures.

How council tax is apportioned is just a smoke screen because you know well that if Mill Lane multi-storey car park in Margate is free then the equivalent car park in Ramsgate is Leopold Street multi-storey not Cannon St with just 80 spaces well away from the shopping area.

Or perhaps you have never been to Ramsgate?

DrM. said...

While I leave Ken to declare UDI over parking charges and spaces in Ramsgate - much like the film 'A Passport to Pimlico' I will remind readers of the budget constraints I wrote about last year in the link further below.

We can pluck a parking income figure out of thin air if we like but it doesn't remove the fact that Thanet is battling to fill the gaps in its budget without people experiencing any visible impact on the most essential services. Whatever you remove in terms of parking income increases the strain on services even further and Labour will have to wake-up to this now they have a responsibility for spending the money wisely.

See

http://birchington.blogspot.com/search?q=1.6+million

Michael Child said...

Simon if Chris can persuade us that 15% of Thanet’s parking revenue is derived from Birchington High Street, will you believe him?

Chris put this in one of his comments on http://thanetonline.blogspot.com/2011/12/day-off-ramble-tracey-emin-westwood.html

“I cant answer questions about business I have not been involved in. This includes historic pontoons and the café question. I have never held any responsibility for land management so only have general views. Simon is your man for leases.”

Fancy having a go at it?

DrM. said...

Michael

I am aware of all of these and the reasoning that led to the decisions at the time, some, in part before my period as portfolio holder. So thanks for the invitation but i would prefer to remain in the present and not off topic in debating decisions made in the past

Michael Child said...

Simon, do you mean that there was some plan behind what happened to the prime council owned sites in Ramsgate?

DrM. said...

Michael

You are trying to draw me off thread and I won't play. However I can confess that no important decisions.are taken without proper consideration and advice.

Michael Child said...

Sorry Simon I was only filling in the time while I was waiting for “Chris Wells to come on and deal with the detail”

DrM. said...

I am sure he will pop by but lets not get distracted from the bigger question of where the money that could be lost from free parking is removed from other crtically strained budgets

Readit said...

Simon, can I remind you that all the figures I quoted came from YOUR press release, with the exception of the number of car parking spaces in each car park which I researched on Google.

I assume your doctorate is not in mathematics if you are willing to accept these numbers in blind faith or political posturing.

Chris Wells said...

Ah ladies and gentlemen, we do seem to have caused a stir now don’t we. I wonder when the last time was that Michael or Readit took such objection to an opposition press release – or indeed Michael edited to exclude information from the release as he has done on his press release blog.Thanks to Tony Flaig for being honest enough to reproduce the whole release.

Your straight ratio calculations are flawed, in that there are relationships around the length of time people park for on different sites. It is entirely possible to have a loaded % coming from particular areas, if there is a higher incidence of short term parking in that area, for whatever reason.

The figures, I assure you, are entirely accurate, and I am somewhat surprised to hear Cllr Worrow not acknowledging that, given he had a private briefing on the subject last week, which would have presented those figures to him. He may not like the conclusions, but should really acknowledge their existence.

The free parking figures are simply derived. If you take the least used car parks on a Saturday in each of the four towns and one village (editing error there for which I apologise), then the cost of making them available is going to be less than opening the currently more popular car parks – this is not rocket science.

This is entirely in line with Mary Portas thinking, in making car parking available cheaper in and around town (and one village) centres to encourage trade on the traditionally busiest shopping day each week. If it works, and the budget allows, it could be further extended over time, whilst keeping the overall budget balance.

I repeat, we left in place a plan to help 5 shopping areas, which costs only marginally more than the cost of helping one promoted at full council. Sometimes, you have to govern for all the area, not just one special bit - isn’t that the basis of some of you gentlemen’s ongoing complaint about fairness?

DrM. said...

Ken.. As ever you miss the point....

It doesn't really matter what the figures are but let's accept they reresent in total a large number that we can call 'n'

TDC has already had to cut a very large number which we will call 'x' from its budget but has managed to keep its essential services intact, although many others have had to be squeezed.

X is already budgeted for in 2011 - 2012 but X-N means that something else will have to give, which means that free parking will involve a sacrifce elsewhere.
.

DrM. said...

Apologies, I just spotted that Michael's version of the press release is not reproduced in full.. Michael, I'm surprised at you?!

Readit said...

Simon, first you try to muddy the waters by saying council tax does not go to the council, now you are saying you must cut budgets to save Thanet.

Neither point is relevant. What part of "the figures are plainly WRONG" do you not understand. Both Michael and myself have pointed out different glaring errors which are contained in your press release, these do not require any access to TDC figures to see, only the ability to add 2 and 2 to make 4 and I am sure the rest of the Thanet blogsphere will not be taken in either.

DrM. said...

Ken.. I'm trying very hard to explain the simple economics of local government. Only a very small percentage of your council tax is given to TDC and it has to find the remainder by local indirect axation measures such as parking charges.

At his time in our history, given the perilous state of the economy, every penny counts... So far so good I hope!

Chris has, I believe explained the charging calculation so take it or leave it!

DrM. said...

I should add that Chris has already proposed a properly costed parking plan which takes into account the type of recommendations suggested by Mary Portas to help stimulate the hight street economy

Readit said...

I have continued the discussion with Chris at thanetonline and I have to say he makes less sense than you.

Seems his loaded figures are all correct and its OK to favour Margate because Mary Portas says so.

Since when did Mary Portas become elected Mayor of Thanet.

DrM. said...

Iris will be upset I'm sure but I am happy to give Mary Portas a chance..anyone disagree?

John Worrow said...

Cllr Wells says "Sometimes, you have to govern for all the area, not just one special bit"

What about the free parking in Cllr Ezekiel's ward, is that not one special bit?

And the free parking in Cllr Moores ward, is that not one special bit?

Maybe they should call themselves the 'do as we say, not as we do' group!

The former administration almost totally ignored Ramsgate for example!

Readit said...

I give up Simon, just as well you were evicted from the big brother house.
Ken

DrM. said...

John..you are starting to show your ignorance of local government in a quite startling manner!

Let's take Westgate as one example. There are no public car parks in the village and there is a waiting period. Different areas are handled with a view to the density of traffic, off-street and on-street parking availability and so on.

There's no parking 'apartheid' anywhere in Thanet and if there were in any manifest way it would probably be subject to some kind of challenge.

Chris, say's you had the briefing and therefor you will be familiar with the details and the financial implications for the district. What makes a District councillor different from a Parish councillor is that he or she has a much wider remit in terms of a collective responsibility to the people of Thanet to act prudently.

I've probably had enough of all this for now, so by all means leave comments but I'm shutting down my PC shortly!

DrM. said...

Sorry Michael, my big finger just touched delete instead of publish and i lost your last comment. Point taken however and I will ask that you receive press releases in an Android friendly form in future...

John Worrow said...

Ignorance of local government because I pointed out that you have free parking in the Town of Westgate, yet you take issue with the same benefits being given to a neighbouring village? I'm talking about street parking!

You really do seem to think that the whole of Thanet buys into your self-concept!

How will the new cabinet cope without you?

Chris Wells said...

Readit has tried to define a mathematical relationship between the number of parking spaces and the likely cost/income from them. If you have spaces in one area that are used for shorter periods of time, ie the first half hour; and compare this with an area where people park for longer ie for an hour or more, Readit's straight ratio between spaces and income will not work - and it is entirely possible that a gift of a free half hour will then cost differently to the budget in different places.

Readit also is mistaken in extrapolating the spaces in Birchington high street seperately in the way he has. The motion to council wants high street and car parks to all have a free half hour.

Finally, there is a cost difference between the ways you offer free parking. A free half hour anywhere has to be patrolled and enforced as if it were paid to prevent abuse, so offers no cost saving in enforcement. A free offer in a particular car park ona particular day requires no enforcement, and thus frees resources for REadit's wish to enforce other parking areas more effectively.

Chris Wells said...

I am sure Cllr Worrow is attempting to never allow a fact to get in the way of a good soundbite. With a consultation on parking coming, he can easily feed in his wish to add Palm Bay, Minnis Bay, Westgate High street, indeed westbrook, minster and anywhere else he wishes should pay parking charges to fund his grand demand for free parking in Birchington. As an independent, he should have no dificulty demanding Tom King's voters pay the price of Mr Worrow's support for a labour administration, now should he - after all there is no whip in independence now is there?

Tim Clark said...

Simon. I have expressed my sympathy with regard to your relationship with the Gazette but as my kids would say, get over it. Your petty, spiteful comments regarding that paper do you no service and in our eyes reduce you to the same level as its editor. Hearts and minds, dear boy, hearts and minds.

DrM. said...

Tim.. you are in the wrong thread but then I think you know that!

So by all means take your comments to the right story but consider for a moment that there is nothing spiteful on my part here, simply my response to the mendacious and spiteful comments, thinly disguised as journalistic satire, that I read elsewhere.

Push me and I will push back!

DrM. said...

Now why do I think that 'Tim Clarke' is simply the familiar Troll trying yet another new alias and then engaging in a conversation with himself. I see Will Scobie may have noticed the same thing.

Follow the very distinctive style across the local weblogs and the underlying agenda and then join-up the dots.

John Worrow said...

Councillor Wells does seem to be good at putting two and two together and making six..

First he mistakes a private chat that I had with a TDC officer about Christmas parking, for some kind of top secret briefing on parking charges, and now he appears to be saying that I support unfair parking charges in other villages!

Cllr Wells seems to forget that I can only make suggestions; I am just a humble ward councillor, who has listened to his local shop keepers and residents,and through the ‘Independent Parking Motion' taken the appropriate action to help save local businesses. The decision will be made by cabinet!

Michael Child said...

You too Simon, glad it isn’t only me with the Mr Sausage Fingers syndrome. Seriously though Simon, with press releases the Conservative group need to adopt a consistent and professional approach, or there will be a large and embarrassing accident.

The best method here is to put “Conservative Group Press Release” in the subject field of the email and the title and text of the text of the release in body of the email, with at least one image in JPG format attached to the email. After the message it should say “ENDS” followed by the information for the person with the news outlet, embargo time, contact details for further information and so on.

As a further note here, press releases with images in them get much more in terms of viewings than those without.

You may think I am labouring the point here, but I receive several emails a week from different sources, where I am uncertain if what they have sent is a press release, or where the text of the release is almost impossible to publish, a picture of a poster embedded in a pdf file seems to be a favourite. This latest Conservative group one was in the form of a link to a downloadable word document on skydrive.live.com I have tested it on four different computers and only one wanted to open it.

DrM. said...

A humble ward councillor who is demanding a cabinet post I hear from the other side today?

John Worrow said...

Simon

First of all you wrongly claimed on your blog that I want to be deputy leader... next you will probably be suggesting that I want join the House of Lords... If I believed everything I heard, you would an MP and Chris Wells would be Leader of KCC.. and you accuse me of Fantasy Island politics?. I feel that you are just trying to avoid the true issue here, which is that you got it wrong on parking!

DrM. said...

John, you are avoiding the question.

Will you deny here, that you have approached Clive Hart for a cabinet position and previous to this, you recommended yourself to Bob Bayford for the same?

I am sure a clear denial here will go some way to reassuring concerned members of all parties and not just those in the Labour Group who may view your actions as unprincipled in the circumstances.

I don't doubt that a firm denial it would come as a relief to the Labour Cabinet!

John Worrow said...

Don't judge me by your own standards Simon. It is not for me to demand anything from anyone. The parking motion for Birchington was carried because people chose to support it - this is why I am a councillor, its about Thanet, not about your position or mine. what have you actually done for westgate?

DrM. said...

Answer the question please John...

Yes or No will be fine.

Have you asked Clive for a Cabinet post?

We can leave the same request to the Conservative group aside for now but here it is again:

Have you approached Clive Hart for a Cabinet role in his administration?

A great many people in Thanet will draw their conclusions from your answer and I suspect members of the Labour Group would really like to know as well.

Anonymous said...

Take it outside you two!!!

You're both like a couple of school children!

John Worrow said...

Simon, Mr Bayford has not spoken to me since early November.

As for Mr Hart, I have not asked him for anything.

Is there is a vacancy then Simon?

Sorry to disappoint you, good try though!

Anonymous said...

Dr M - and anyone else for that fact, does this mr Worrow actually do anything - all I see in the blogs is him complaining about everyone else and shouting about how wonderful he is. Surely it was worth going into opposition just to get rid of him!!

Anonymous said...

Mr Worrow - if you are a Thanet councillor why did you only ask about the parking in Birchington - is that not what parish councillors do?

DrM. said...

So John, that's a "No" then and the subject of a Cabinet position in the Labour Group has never been discussed at any time.. Just wanted to be sure?

So if you can just say "No" then if that's correct and everyone can be clear that your political motives are entirely principled and transparent.

DrM. said...

I think we have our answer from John Worrow and as Labour appeared to be having a meeting this evening, I suspect he will have his answer from them too!

Will Scobie said...

The Labour group meets often to discuss policies and make sure that all Councillors are involved in the decision making. We are a democratic party after all, not an oligarchy.

I am only a backbench Councillor but at no point was anything offered to the independents other than a more consensual style of leadership. Rather than acting as though we have a majority and treating the rest of Council with disdain, the Labour group is taking a more open approach and actually including other parties (including the Conservatives) in the decision making process.

Perhaps Simon this is more a case of sour grapes than any desire for the truth. Also it seems to be a very clever strategy from your group to alienate first of all the Labour group when you referred to our Cabinet as having no talent, and then secondly the independents through the behaviour of your Deputy Leader and your baiting comments on this blog.

If anyone is confused as to why the Conservatives lost control of Thanet Council, they need look no further than the condescending and rude attitude from their leadership.

DrM. said...

Steady Will, you have missed the question. Where have I said that anything was offered to the independents by the Labour Group? that would be incorrect!

By using 'independents' plural and 'offer' you quite deftly steer away from the John Worrow issue. Well done!

Before you dig a deeper hole, best go and ask Clive why he called me at home on Saturday night?

As for a Labour 'Cabinet of all the Talents' that's hardly sour grapes or unfair but by all means please publish their record of achievements on your own weblog. I'm sure the people of Thanet would be fascinated. I'm sure you will agree it's a great idea and will put to rest any of the speculation that others have written here.

I'm sure this is exactly what your Mark Nottingham would have done if the roles were reversed.

Will Scobie said...

The Labour group did not discuss last night whether to give Mr Worrow or any of the independents a cabinet post. How is that for clear? In fact I think you need to check your sources because I don't think that idea has ever been discussed as a proposal. It may have been discussed privately by people - I don't know - but never officially or at any of the meetings I have been at.

Right now the Cabinet needs some time to do some work, and it would be quite unfair to expect them to have solved Thanet's problems in two weeks. Ask me again in 6 months time when Labour have had a chance to get to work!

DrM. said...

Well you said it Will, you're a 'humble back-bencher' and perhaps it was discussed privately and quite properly ignored, I'm sure.

But you'll see that the very simple question - still not answered - was never directed at you or indeed the Labour Group but John Worrow. Have a second look.

I take it then you aren't up for publishing the resumes of the 'Cabinet of All the Talents' on your weblog then either?

Will Scobie said...

Perhaps you would like to post the achievements of the Cabinet that you were part of and remind us what Thanet is missing?

DrM. said...

You are quite new to this game Will and I have you and indeed even Clive, on the back foot about your Cabinet and so I'm bound to keep pushing.

Trying to switch the attention to the achievements on the Conservative cabinet, simply looks like it is, a deflection, rather like John Worrow's earlier "What have you ever done for Westgate" comment.

Indcidentally, I have noticed that he has taken down the rather bizarre CAPS post he published on his weblog last night.

People do of course want to know what Labour can do and of course whether their council tax will increase to support your Cabinet's new ideas?

Sergeant Arthur Wilson said...

What makes me laugh the most out of all of this is actually nothing to do with the parking rows:

All of a sudden, the newly elected Mr Worrow has learned to spell and make grammatically correct sentences overnight. Let alone make acid (supposedly witty) remarks.

The sad thing is that he's still sprouting self servicing tripe! Wake up Birchington!

Perhaps, someone is ghostwriting your tripe for you Mr Worrow??

Chris Wells said...

Parking row? I simply wanted to put out there the planned consultation we left with the ability to help traders and stay within a tight budget. In addition I wanted to make it clear what the downsides of the proposal for 30 mins free were, in budgetary and enforcement terms, thus underlining the reasons for the proposal as it stands.

The rest, is froth!

DrM. said...

Quite agree with you Chris, we were distracted by the personalities and not the issues, a familiar problem when blogging!

DrM. said...

I have just left a comment on John Worrow's weblog that my fellow Conservative councillors now recognise the financial implications to the budget of offering free parking and that of course, it was never a whipped vote.

In the end, this may resolve to a question of whether the people of Thanet wish to see their council tax held unchanged or whether they wish to see another service cut back or council tax increased to cover the predicted parking revenue shortfall.

So just in case he doesn't allow any comments from me, here's the full version.

Anonymous said...

And the great crusading Worrow NEVER did ANSWER THE QUESTION.
Enough said.

DonW said...

My God! No wonder Thanet is in such a mess if this thread is an example of those elected to make important decisions. You wonder why the general public doesn't have a lot of faith in politicians? Take a moment to read back over it and reflect on your contribution. Shame on you all!

Perhaps you can make some smart decisions at Council tonight and start to improve your image!