Letters to the Editor

PUBLISHED: 13:21 28 November 2011

"I agree with Nick" was a famous phrase last year, well, "I agree with Fred" could be the surprise statement of 2011; though whether charging should be contemplated at all in the current economic climate is doubtful.

I WANTED to respond to letters published last week that seem to suggest that Conservative councillors are unfeeling, out-of-touch and fully in support of parking charges. Many people will know my stance on parking charges and will be aware that I was one of the leaders of the campaign against parking charges four years ago.

I feel it is time to speak up for myself and some of the other Conservative councillors, especially in the light of a decision by the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee last week.

The public should know that the Ely Conservative councillors have remained opposed to parking charges and have been supported by some of the councillors representing the nearby villages and some others. It is unfortunate though that our numbers have not been sufficient to prevent charges coming in at all, against those representing other areas across the district.

I had felt, however, that a scheme had been devised that went some way to addressing the problems that parking charges create. The proposed scheme means that residents can move around Ely for a palatable £20 per year, including workers. The existing workers’ permit giving early morning access would remain at £45 instead of something like £200-£450 and parking for visitors would be £1 per day which I consider to be just about bearable, in fact, the best of a bad job. To address the public’s viewpoint that once charges are brought in they will increase yearly, a three-year guarantee on these prices has been built into the scheme allowing the public to use this issue as an election promise next term.

Last week, these terms were revised through different committees which removed the three-year guarantee and allowed the £1 visitor’s charge to expand to £5 per day on long-stay car parks. Sadly, this cannot be laid at the feet of the opposition party, who actually took the chance to abstain, but at the feet of some Conservative councillors who chose to influence others and go against the agreed scheme. It is important to the integrity of the council and the Conservative party that clear decisions are made and backed by full commitment to those decisions.

The public is obviously right to be wary of councillors and their promises. The price has potentially gone up even before the scheme comes in and not after, despite the promises of our spokesman was asked to relay to the public and despite the requirement to cover the cost of car park provision of £217,000 having been met by the projection.

I know my public account will not make me popular with some colleagues, but my priority is to my personal integrity and in representing the community who put their faith in me as a person or as a Conservative. It is so important that all members represent the views of the electorate they are voted to serve.

The scheme and parking charge proposals are out for public consultation at this time; however, I must question the validity of the consultation in the light of the revisions. I recommend that constituents use their right to comment on the three-year price guarantee and £1 per day maximum which was the core of the unique scheme designed and promised for Ely.

CLLR ELAINE GRIFFIN-SINGH

Ely North Ward.

I WOULD like to pass on my congratulations to all those responsible for the Christmas lights in Ely this year, they look wonderful. If readers have not already seen them they should take a trip into the centre now. I know that there is an incredible amount of hard work involved in assembling and erecting the lights each year, and that this time if given freely by a small group of dedicated people. All their hard work is much appreciated by this Ely citizen. They have certainly brightened up my Christmas.

PAT HOBBS

Ely

DESPITE the trialling of the Conservative charging proposals through the press, and councillor Hunt’s efforts to make them palatable £1 per day was not enough.

The policy agenda on November 24 was amended with a new recommendation 10 minutes into the meeting, tabled by councillors Palmer and Read. The original consultation arrangements proposed a price freeze until 2015, after the next election, to give some certainty that this was not going to become a cash cow. The new proposal voted through despite opposition from the Liberal Democrats and one Conservative is to ‘review ‘the charge after one year.

Another amendment passed by the controlling group changes the long-stay proposals. This was to have been £1 per day, but is now £1 per hour up to a maximum of £5. Any worker in the city that does not purchase an annual permit will have to pay £25 per week to park.

Presumably traders and residents were consulted about these late changes, or not? Presumably residents who on occasion use the long-stay car parks are going to be happy to pay, I think not.

Business permits are still available at a charge, but nothing is being done for residents. Charging in the car parks is likely to create a migration on street, worsening congestion and annoying those that live within walking distance of the city centre.

The proposals do nothing to manage the streets, the cash raised is not ring fenced for transport issues, this is simply a revenue raising scheme, something that ex councillor Fred Brown recognises in his letter last week.

“I agree with Nick” was a famous phrase last year, well, “I agree with Fred” could be the surprise statement of 2011; though whether charging should be contemplated at all in the current economic climate is doubtful.

If it has to happen let’s at least have some community benefits and ring fence the money.

CLLR IAN ALLEN

THE county council is working hard to keep the residents of the villages moving for pleasure, work, business, social, family, educational and health reasons.

It is clear that the rigid routed and time-tabled service buses that sometimes cost between £5-£10 per person per journey to subsidise are not sustainable in the long run and do not always deliver a good service. It is also obvious (I think) that a way of retaining people’s quality of life needs to be established. There must be a better way.

My view of the future is that the role of Dial-a-Ride will expand and it will play a more pivotal and more personal role in the lives of rural residents. Dial-a-Ride can offer its increasingly excellent service to many members of the community, whether they live in a village or in a more rural location.

I was lucky to secure the possibility of a pilot village bus scheme trial for Haddenham and Wilburton. The 106 will not cease when the trial starts and meaningful meetings are taking place with Haddenham Parish Council to try and find the best way forward.

In the long term, the county council cannot keep paying £3,000,000 per year to subsidise loss-making bus services. What we are trying to do is get more value for money for the taxpayer and introduce a local service run locally and accurately serving the needs of local residents. Services going where and when people want must be the answer with local choices being made at village level.

We are trying to get it right and as a responsible local authority we are doing some trials. I think it is great that Haddenham and Wilburton have a chance to be in at the start of the trial.

Of course, the residents will be involved as the scheme moves from thought to reality.

BILL HUNT

County member (Haddenham division)

SO we have rats Palace Green in Ely, well sorry but the rats are not there because people are feeding ducks. Look around your own buildings and see where they are making their homes and it’s nothing to do with anyone feeding ducks. Even if the ducks were not there the rats would still be there, but they would be scavenging elsewhere. Rats live in the sewer pipes, under floors in houses or even your garden shed and we all have waste bins outside our houses so really this blaming people who feed ducks is just another bit of scaremongering . Use some mice and rat poison around your home and that might just do the trick.

EDDIE HOLDEN

Ely Road

Little Downham

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