Under the Spotlight – A Call-in

The Call-in of car-parking charges by 3 Members of the Environment and Economy Scrutiny Committee took place today. I was invited as the Chairman of the Parking Advisory Panel to give evidence as to why the Panel made certain recommendations to Cabinet. To be honest, the point of the Call-in was not because of these recommendations, but the final decision that was made by Cabinet. I believe a few people forgot about this point as the afternoon went on. 

Also to face questioning was the Parking Manager and the Portfolio Holder. A grilling was to be expected and a grilling is what we got. Never one to shy away from questioning I gave direct and honest answers to all questions thrown at me. As I have mentioned before, car-parking and the associated charges are emotive with everyone having an idea as to how charging should be.

Many points were made on the amount and detail of evidence presented to both the Panel and Cabinet. I can honesty say we (the Panel) have consulted at every turn and reviewed mountains of evidence during this process. It is out of this evidence that the Panel made its recommendations. It was then up to Cabinet to accept or change these as they see fit.
The Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the OSC conducted this meeting very well. Without their firm hand, this meeting could have gone easily off the rails. They kept it firmly on track and to the point.
After about 3 hours (it did seem longer) of questioning a recommendation was proposed. This is the Council and motions are never straight forward, and todays were no different. After what seemed like an age, three points were put to the vote. That decision is as follows.

i) The Environment and Economy Overview and Scrutiny Committee to not to refer the Car Park Charging decision back to Cabinet

ii) That on the basis of the responses that have been given to the call-in, the Environment and Economy Overview and Scrutiny Committee does not refer the car park charges decision back to Cabinet, but that the Environment and Economy Overview and Scrutiny work programme is amended to include the review of car park charges within the next six to nine months; and

iii) That the Cabinet – Parking Policy Advisory Panel put in a mechanism to ensure that in future, charge rises are based on sound economic and social evidence and not simply a desire to extract more money from the tourism and business sectors.

I have no problem with any of these decisions, and in fact, believe these are sensible steps forward in a complex issue

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