Pay & Display
SURREY COUNTY COUNCIL SLATED BY INFORMATION COMMISSIONER
Surrey County Council has been criticised by the Information Commissioner (ICO) for its behaviour over Freedom of Information requests made during its attempt to bring in on-street parking charges last year.
OLRG and Oxted Chamber of Commerce and Chanterelle of Oxted made 3 joint complaints to the ICO about the County Council's repeated failure to supply information about the parking charges proposals.
All the complaints have been upheld. The ICO says that SCC:
* refused to provide the information without a valid excuse
* failed to comply with time limits
* failed to provide the required advice and assistance
Many thousands of people opposed the plans to introduce parking charges in towns across the county, including Oxted, Caterham, Whyteleafe and Warlingham. The County Council eventually dropped them.
The ICO decision
Case Ref: FER0396638
Public Authority: Surrey County Council
Summary: The complainants requested a business plan and related information concerning proposed changes to parking charges due to be brought in by Surrey County Council (SCC). The Information Commissioner's decision is that SCC failed to justify its application of the 'manifestly unreasonable' exception and failed to respond within the statutory timescale. The Information Commissioner requires SCC to either provide an adequate refusal under the correct legislation (the EIR) or disclose the requested information.
Section of Act/EIR & Finding: EIR 5.1 - Complaint Upheld, EIR 5.2 - Complaint Upheld, EIR 9.1 - Complaint Upheld
To read the full decision click here
Pay and Display scrapped for Tandridge
Following the news that plans for Pay and Display in Tandridge have been scrapped, the residents group has been asking exactly what Surrey County Council will now be consulting on - a consultation about commuter parking in Tandridge is planned for the autumn.
We've received these details from David Hodge, SCC's Deputy Leader and County Councillor for Warlingham, and from Nick Skellett, County Councillor for Oxted.
'We can confirm that the Surrey Parking Team are currently reviewing parking arrangements outside Woldingham, Dormans and Whyteleafe Stations. They have a clear remit to draw up proposals that could improve current parking facilities for residents and station users. They will also consider whether parking charges are appropriate at these locations. The proposals will not include changes to retail parking arrangements and these are the only locations being investigated in Tandridge.
When they meet in September, the Local Committee will be able to decide whether to go ahead with the consultation or make changes to the proposals prior to this.'
So, parking meters may be proposed for these three locations. However OLRG has been assured that alternatives to meters will be examined, particularly in view of the fact that installing meters may not be cost effective.
We'll continue to keep an eye on developments.
Pay and Display scrapped for Tandridge
We're delighted that Surrey County Council has scrapped its plans to bring in Pay and Display in Tandridge. The County Council's deputy leader David Hodge has emailed OLRG and the Oxted Chamber of Commerce to say: "I am pleased to make clear that all of Tandridge district has been withdrawn from the public consultation on 'on street parking charges." The matter is now closed.
The current parking restrictions throughout Tandridge will continue to be enforced but parking will not be paid for."
The County Council will now review commuter parking in the area and a public consultation on this will be carried out later this year.
Councillor Hodge added: "Therefore the public consultation to be conducted in Tandridge area will be in respect of concerns raised by many residents and local councillors to look at the effects of commuter parking in Tandridge area.
I cannot confirm at this stage which roads throughout Tandridge will be included in the consultation. Officers need to assess safety issues, those roads where parking at stations is creating local difficulties. I believe the Task Group suggested only a very limited number of stations and Highway Parking Officers will review those suggestions as part of their review. Naturally the details of specifics will be clearly laid out in the consultation document. I see no reason why OLRG should presume that 'Oxted's residential roads are now being targeted for pay and display' as this issue is now firmly concluded"
It's been a tremendous struggle but we're very pleased that common sense has now prevailed and Surrey County Council has finally accepted there is no financial case for the introduction of Pay and Display in Tandridge. This is particularly so because Tandridge District Council has a free parking for shoppers policy and does not charge in its off street car parks which makes on street charging not viable. Free parking will continue and the attempt to bring in parking meters here is now at an end. We hope this remains the case and will keep an eye on developments.
Tandridge Council, which has strongly opposed these proposals right from the start, has issued this statement
Thank you to everyone who wrote in and/or signed the petition to scrap the parking charges and helped to achieve this result. Many thanks also to the Facebook 'Pay & Dismay' campaign team.
On Street Parking Charges - Death of the High Street
Surrey County Councillors have voted to reject the petition, signed by more than 26,000 people, calling for the scrapping of the County Council's plans for on street parking charges. The vote went almost entirely along party lines and the final result was greeted with cries of 'shame' from the packed public gallery.
To watch the debate click here. It starts 48 minutes in.
Star of the show, we thought, was the Residents Association County Councillor for Epsom and Ewell North, Mr Eber Kington.
One Oxted resident who was there commented: 'This is politics at its worst'. To hear highlights of BBC Surrey's coverage click on first headline.
The day after the debate, documents arrived from Surrey County Council with new details about charging. They can be read on this link: click here
See Item 9 - Final Report of the On-Street Parking Task Group. The Tandridge proposals are under Item 09 - Annexe 9 - LC comments/Financial Case/Map.
The headlines are:
1 Oxted: No change. The decision on charging is left to the County Council Cabinet of 10 members which includes the leader Andrew Povey and Ian Lake the Cabinet member for Transport.
2 Caterham: Charging outside the main line of shops in both Croydon Road and Godstone Road.
3 Whyteleafe: Charging viable at commuter parking near the station. Charging not currently viable elsewhere.
4 Warlingham: Charging not currently viable.
Where charging is proposed it is likely there will be a free half hour though we have concerns about how long this will last as the County Council made it very clear in their original proposals that this option was not financially viable.
Oxted is in the same position as before and we are committed to continuing to strenuously fight these proposals and to persuading the Cabinet that charging is totally inappropriate. We hope proper note is taken of the Chamber of Commerce's economic impact statement and of this comment about Oxted from the Task Group: 'In general, it is considered unlikely that on street charges would be viable against the backdrop of so much free off street parking'
The Chamber of Commerce has been telling the County Council all along that Pay and Display is not viable in Oxted. There is free off street parking so it won't be able to make money out of on street charges, especially at weekends, when the free off street parking is unlimited. A free half hour just means bigger losses.
Surrey County Council want to bring in on street parking charges across the county because of a half million deficit in their parking services. Oxted & Limpsfield Residents Group and Oxted Chamber of Commerce have been trying very hard to get more information. But enquiries made under the Freedom of Information Act have not been properly answered and we have been forced to make a complaint. That complaint has now been upheld in that full information was not supplied and no proper response was given within the proper time. The information requested has still not been supplied despite the original request being made on 20 February.
We are particularly keen to find out details of the losses incurred in the Council's management of the Guildford Park and Ride which appear to be close on half a million pounds - pretty much the amount the County Council need to raise from Pay and Display. As well, it appears from initial information that there is massive duplication in staff, management and processes involved in the parking service.
Surrey County Council's proposals document and formal 'Statement of Reasons' makes it quite clear that this is purely a revenue raising exercise because of the deficit, but we are advised that this is not a true and proper reason under the Road Traffic Regulation Act. The Act is not intended to provide a means of raising revenue or introducing charges as back door taxation. Therefore the proposals may not be legally compliant.
Before embarking on these plans, the County Council made no attempt to assess the impact on the local economy. They accept that no business plan or economic impact assessment was ever prepared before deciding to press ahead. We believe on street parking charges will result in major economic damage to local businesses at a time when they are already having to cope with the recession.
Because no research had been done, the Chamber of Commerce have carried out their own impact assessment which found that the total loss of revenue to the businesses of Oxted was likely to be in excess of £2.6M, suggesting a potential loss of about 26 jobs. It also anticipated that some businesses would be forced to close resulting in further job losses. It is irresponsible of SCC to offload its financial problems onto a private sector that is already battling with the effects of the recession.
In an attempt to defuse the tremendous opposition, the County Council is now offering a free first half hour in some areas. This appears disingenuous because the County Council already knows this option is not viable and said so in its original proposals document which stated:
"Some locations across the UK offer free parking for say the first Â½ hour and charge for longer stays. This would have the advantage of making enforcement easier, but it could dramatically reduce income, meaning the pay and display machines were not self-financing and consequently needed to be subsidised, further draining the highway budget.
A free Â½ hour or other period should not initially be introduced in any area as this could make the installation of pay and display machines financially untenable."
It seems inevitable that, once the meters are installed, the County Council will quickly ditch the free half hour because of the financial consequences.
East Surrey MP Sam Gyimah has condemned the parking charges proposals and so too has Tandridge District Council with a unanimous resolution. For opinion from Oxted High Street click here
The chart below shows the timetable for bringing in Pay and Display across Surrey.
Location ...........Target for Formal Consultation & Advertisement.............Target Implementation Date
Parking machine contract award Cabinet Member decision 18 May
Elmbridge & Reigate and Banstead
Cabinet decision: 24 May
Target date: Late July-early Sept
Surrey Heath & Spelthorne
Consult: Jun/Jul 2011
Cabinet decision: 26 July
Target date: Sept/Oct 2011
Guildford & Waverley
Consult: Augt/Sept 2011
Cabinet decision: 27 Sept
Target date: Nov 2011
Mole Valley & Epsom and Ewell
Consult: Oct/Nov 2011
Cabinet decision 29 Nov
Target date: Feb 2012
Woking & Runnymede
Consult: Dec 2011/Jan 2012
Cabinet decision: 31 Jan
Target date: March 2012
Consult: Feb/Mar 2012
Cabinet decision: 27 March
Target date: May 2012
The proposals are in direct conflict with Surrey County Council's transport plan objectives to reduce congestion and CO2 emissions. Using Oxted as an example, they will increase congestion by encouraging 'displacement parking' in other roads near the town centre which are already seriously congested. As well, they will increase CO2 emissions by encouraging people to drive further afield to access shops. (eg: to out of town superstores or to Bluewater)
There seems to be a simple answer to Surrey County Council's financial problem; a solution sitting on its own doorstep in Kingston that will not destroy small businesses. SCC currently provides free parking for 500 staff in a town centre car park. If it charged for this at the usual hourly rate, it could generate more than £2 million a year, much more than it says it needs to raise from these new parking charges. It could do what it tells private employers to do - come up with a Green Travel Plan and encourage employees to get to work by train, bus or bicycle.
To read the County Council's justification for the free parking click here