Monday, 22 July 2013
Parking madness, Barnet style: Tory policy in tatters as CPZ campaigners win their Judicial Review
Another victory for the residents of Broken Barnet: judgement handed down this morning in the CPZ parking Judicial Review, finding in favour of the claimant, and thereby ruling the outrageous policy of enormous hikes in charges introduced by former Tory Cabinet member Brian Coleman to be unlawful.
You can find the full judgement here, and the background to the action here:
This verdict is a magnificent achievement for resident and campaigner David Attfield and all his supporters, and residents will be extremely grateful to him for all extensive efforts made to bring this case to the High Court - and win. So many residents have been struggling to cope with the permit rise from £40 to £100, and most of all the 400% rise in charges in vouchers, leaving many elderly, vulnerable and disadvantaged people isolated, and unable to afford the cost of parking in these areas.
Yet again it has been demonstrated that the Tory administration of Barnet Council has allowed political ideology, and a deep rooted contempt for the opinion and well being of residents and taxpayers to overule the limitations of their statutory powers, and seek to impose unjust and unlawful policies on the community whose best interests they are supposed to protect.
Reading through the judgement, it is clear that the exploitation of parking revenue was deliberately chosen and ruthlessly pursued by Councillor Coleman, in contradiction of his own earlier opposition to increased charges. He will no doubt excuse this on the grounds of political pragmatism. Others may take a different view.
We currently await the outcome of the One Barnet Judicial Review, in which residents have challenged the awarding of contracts to Capita, and the mass privatisation of our council services, another policy decision of uncalculable significance for the residents of this borough, and one which was foisted on us unlawfully, in breach of the statutory duty to consult.
Questions must be asked about the legal advice given to the authority in the preparation for both these discredited policies, and the way in which they were imposed.
We have a right to know that the council is acting properly in seeking the right legal advice, and then acting in accordance with the proper opinion, rather than, for example, putting political expediency or budgetary pressures before the right course of action.
The risks associated with the adoption of such reckless policies have exposed the authority not only to legal challenge, but to the expense incurred in addressing such challenge.
In the Barnet Press, Tory leader Richard Cornelius, predictably, refuses to accept the judgement, saying he believes the the council's use of this revenue was 'entirely within the scope of the special parking account under the Road Traffic Act. With that in mind I don’t think we have any alternative but to look to appeal this decision'.
Cornelius and the Chief Executive bemoan the inconvenience and expense caused by legal challenge to their policy decisions, and seek to imply that residents are to blame for daring to bring such challenges to judicial review.
It is time that this administration learns a very important lesson, and one which is glaringly obvious: if you choose to impose a policy that is unlawful, or in the face of overwhelming opposition from residents, you can no longer expect to get away with it.
We will challenge you, and oppose you, and hold you to account, and if we win that is because you broke the law, and you must bear the consequences.
You may think you can ignore the will of your own electors, but you cannot ignore the laws which are meant to protect us from your incompetence, and the irrationality of your political agenda.
Another battle won, and another victory for justice: the war continues.
Mrs Angry has just seen the report in the local Times in which Tory leader Cornelius is quoted thus:
“... it is fairly clear that the council raised the price of parking permits, after five years of a price freeze, too abruptly and rather charmlessly. I will make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
Laugh, or cry?
This man is completely incapable of understanding why his administration keeps falling falling foul of the law: in his view of the world, the most outrageous policy is still acceptable if it is eased into place with a dollop of charm. Highway robbery with good manners, rather than a cosh over the head: that's so much more acceptable, isn't it?
And here are some unsettling thoughts, which Richard will probably not want to consider: what now for the rest of Coleman's discredited parking policy - the upping of charges in our high streets, and the hugely unpopular pay by phone system foisted upon us? All introduced as part of the policy of using revenue to subsidise other parts of the budget: this now must surely be reviewed?