Parking charges would be a threat to city s prosperity ALL has been quiet on the pay to park proposals recently but the next meeting of ECDC s Transport and Environment committee was scheduled for Tuesday. I have carried out some simple research into the

Parking charges would be a threat to city's prosperity

ALL has been quiet on the pay to park proposals recently but the next meeting of ECDC's Transport and Environment committee was scheduled for Tuesday.

I have carried out some simple research into the background of the transport strategy under debate. The appointment of consultants to this "strategy" was never put to competitive tender, and these consultants have never successfully implemented a similar parking scheme anywhere else.

ECDC's transport and environment committee set up a working party to examine the issues within the strategy and report back to the full committee.

I rather naively assumed that this working party consists of experts and interested parties. Not so. There are a number of these people represented, but the chair of the council committee and chair of the working party is the same person.

The same council lead officer and consultant are on both teams, as are two highly vocal and opinionated councillors. So, in effect, the working party reports to itself - hardly a democracy at work. Reports that I have heard from a working party member is that this is steamrolling legislation into place.

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What notice have the council and committee taken of the 11,000 freely-given signature petition handed in?

The council needs to negotiate with Network Rail and railway franchisees to provide adequate parking for their customers, to free up hundreds of city parking spaces. I would suggest the old Labgear/Westmill Foods site opposite Tesco. The site has been empty for more than 18 months and is an eyesore.

The simple fact has been ignored that Ely is too small to charge for car parks and too small for a bus system to work. Ely does not have any large stores like Debenhams or M & S within the city centre that would encourage people to even reluctantly pay for parking.

Much of Ely's charm is because there are so many unique independent small businesses - the very businesses most threatened by parking charges.

Samuel Martin wrote in The Times on January 3: "My high street is dying. It has been strangled, not by the large Tesco at one end (which has been there for years) but by the decision of Epping Forest Council to implement an aggressive, privately-run, parking scheme that preys on the local community as it pops to and from the shops. A retailer calls these visitors his 'passing trade' and without them small business is doomed.

"Slowly, since the parking Mafia invaded, our high street has been sinking, as family concerns that have stood for century and independent tradesmen that have helped to give the town its personality have been forced away. The only safe place to park now is, of course, Tesco - where parking is time limited to stop it being used as a base to explore - but there is no evidence that Tesco manipulated this fortuitous situation. The buck stops with the council who, through thoughtless greed, degraded their community."

There are frightening analogies here, the only possible beneficiary to parking charges will be Tesco, already with a £2billion profit.

The losers will be the Council Tax and business rate payers who already pay for parking through their taxes.


Compton Fields


Time to stand up for Council Tax payers

I WAS pleased to read your article on the Council Tax hikes being proposed by our so-called elected representatives in Shire Hall, Cambridge.

It is about time someone flew the flag on behalf of the downtrodden Council Tax payer who has to cough-up more and more every year to satisfy the spendthrift ways of those who are supposedly in office to provide us with cost-effective services.

As a former employee of Cambridgeshire County Council, I learned first-hand, over many years, the massive waste in public-funded resources that take place on a daily basis. For example, over-staffing on a massive scale, regular (and disruptive) reorganisations of staff that inevitably involved costly office moves/building modifications, costly technology upgrades (because it's on the central government agenda) and spending the year-end department budget "surplus" on anything that may be on the wish-list.

Can any of our elected representatives explain why the county council has a £10million shortfall for this financial year when it has just undertaken its biggest (root and branch, to quote the county council's new chief executive) reorganisation for decades?

Has anyone been held accountable for this overspend on a massive scale? Of course not. We'll just ask the good old citizens of Cambridgeshire to bail us out yet again.

The new chief executive was recently recruited to re-shape the organisation, to make it leaner and fitter, to be more accountable to those who fund it through their Council Tax payments. It would appear he has promised much and achieved nothing, apart from running up a £10million hole in the budget and presiding over a Social Services department stripped of its hard-won three-star status. If this was a plc the shareholders would be demanding his resignation.

The demand for an across-the-board Council Tax increase of 9.6% (or four times inflation) is not only extortionate, it is obscene.

I totally disagree with Councillor Judy Broadway when she said "they are losing the plot". On the contrary, Cllr Broadway, I think they have finally found it! Currently, 100 per cent of us pay an already high proportion of our disposable income to fund so-called essential services for a tiny minority of our population. I am sure this could be provided much more cost-effectively and efficiently without the hugely expensive, massively over bureaucratic, over-staffed and hopelessly inefficient machine that is laughingly called local government to gum-up the works.

Cllr Broadway should be calling for the resignation of the leader of the council, the head of finance and the chief executive.


De-light-ful result of team effort

I HOPE you will all agree the Christmas lights in Ely this year were the best yet and that you thoroughly enjoyed them, together with the switch-on event that has become an established part of the city's social calendar.

The whole exercise is co-ordinated by the City of Ely Council supported by local businesses, who provide hot drinks, transport, donations and many other necessary things. We're also grateful to the citizens of Ely, who volunteer their time and expertise to make it all happen.

We are particularly grateful to The King's School, Holgate & French and The Potter Group. In addition, we would like to thank the Ely Perspective as the main organisers of the switch-on event.

Not forgetting the people who volunteer to erect and dismantle the lighting show. This is carried out over a number of weekends in all weathers and, without the volunteer army, the display would not happen. It was particularly pleasing to see more people lending a hand this year.

The funding for the lights is stretched to the limit and, without wide-ranging community involvement, Ely would not be such a bright and attractive place at Christmas time.

May we wish you all a happy new year - as we begin to plan for next Christmas. If you would like to help in any way, contact the City of Ely Council on 01353 661016.



Ely Christmas Lights Committee

Painful example of rail dangers

I WISH to add a recent personal experience to your level crossing debate.

Walking into Ely on the A142 I found the crossing gates up and started to cross. When I was roughly in the middle of the crossing, the siren began to sound and simultaneously the gates began to drop. I hurried on, thinking I might take shelter at the side of the right-hand gate post.

Suddenly the right-hand gate started descending and I thought to myself that some electronic gadget had seen me and was thoughtfully holding the gate partly open. I stooped gratefully under it when sharply it recommenced its descent, giving me a nasty bang on the head in passing. I can only conclude these gates are not set for pedestrians.


West Fen Road