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.”

Rather charmlessly.

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?


Anonymous said...

Many congratulations. I used to live in a Barnet CPZ and was shocked to see the rise to £100, as well as the increase in visitor permits.

Don't Call Me Dave said...

It is interesting that you have given such support to this campaign given your much publicised hatred of cars and motorists. In the world according to Mrs Angry, we should only be allowed to travel around by horse and cart. But then I remembered that this was a Tory policy, so of course you felt duty bound to oppose it. That is the nature of leftism: Tory policies = evil. Labour policies = nirvana.

That said, this was a disastrous policy idea that was bound to end in tears if only the council had considered the consequences beforehand. Given how many people own cars in the Borough, it should have been obvious, even to councillors with limited brain capacity, that hiking charges would cause massive resentment. The council claims that it needs to raise additional revenue. They still don’t seem to understand the concept of reducing expenditure rather than trying to find new ways of raising it. But if they had stuck a penny on the council tax instead of hoking parking charges, it would have caused less of a problem. But to have done this would have put paid to the myth that council tax was being frozen.

Councillors (of all political colours) claim to keep headline taxes down, but raise revenue through stealth taxes instead. The public are not stupid. We know how much money is taken from us by these villains and thieves and it makes little difference to us which pocket they steal it from.

As to your question as to who gave the council such duff legal advice, you well know the answer to that; but if I mention his name, you won’t publish this comment.

Partygirl said...

How much longer is Coleman going to be allowed to waste taxpayers' money on his half-baked schemes? He was severely criticised by a High Court Judge over the Partingdale Lane fiasco, now he has screwed up again with parking charges plus he's a convicted criminal. Why is he allowed to remain a councillor paid for by us?

Anonymous said...

Congratulations. It is really morally right residents must raise so much money to take take a council to court??

In my area, there are so many injustices. The council can do what it wants and there is no means to challenge them.

Residents Zone:

In my area, much of the Borough is subdivided into tiny little parking zones. A person from one zone needs a permit or pay to park in another. What do we pay road tax for?

In the 1990s they started off putting them around major shopping areas (fair enough), but they have got greedy and there residents parking zones even in places they cannot justify them.

The council will lie and cheat. They would design residents parking zones, to include 30% of residents, but enlarge the area and include another 70% of residents who don't want it and don't have parking issues. This is how they have been making residents parking zones bigger then they need to be.

Shopping Car Parking:
Over the last 20 years, we seen our shops close down and replaced with cheap pounds shops.

How can the shops survive when they there are traffic wardens circling like sharks. When they sell up, low margin shop open up in their place.

My council is charging a minimum of £2.20 per hour. This is why people go to retail parks.

You won't get a ticket if you are 5 minutes late. You can shop without stress or looking at your watch....

Mrs Angry said...

DCMD; I know it is a very hot day and you are a very grumpy old man at the best of times, but really ... I do not hate cars or motorists, but I do hold in contempt all selfish and dangerous drivers, especially those who speed or object to road safety measures.

I have never travelled by horse and cart, except in Ireland, aged about three,around Lake Killarney, during which experience I worried about falling off and wailed all the way. I'm not sure it would catch on in Barnet.

Partygirl: quite. But his time is over, it is simply a matter of tidying up after his trail of problems.

Good point, Anon: a poor thing indeed when residents have to take their own council to court to get their idiotic policies reversed. But this is quite the fashion here in Broken Barnet: the latest thing. Awfully popular.

Barnet Tories will not listen to their residents, or abide by the law,when they have determined on such half brained schemes, and this is the result.

Mr Mustard said...

Don't worry Mrs Angry as Mr Mustard has emailed Richard Cornelius and copied in the powerless Dean Cohen, stuck as he is with the £7m he has to raise a year in the Special Parking Account, Dean has no wriggle room, and swiftly and with charm suggested they think before they mount an appeal.

Mr Mustard has also blogged the idea so that various other CPZ residents are emailing Richard, and copying in his underling Dean, at this very moment. They will struggle to find any whipping instructions amongst the number of emails they will get.

If enough people write, the idea will catch on, in fact Richard will probably claim it as his very own, he is rather proud of Friern Barnet library now and my local councillors are claiming credit for traffic lights on the A1 which I am 100% sure Mr A Dismore campaigned for.

If there is a bandwagon forming you can count on the former opponents to jump right on and say they were there from the very start. As if!

Anonymous said...

Cornelius effectively blaming the residents for bringing the case is an attitude that has permeated through the senior officers of the council. My wife was made redundant as part of a highly dubious process from her position as a library manager in Barnet in March after 26 years of commitment, achievement and dedicated service. Her appeal against redundancy was rejected by Bill Murphy - one of his main thrusts, as far as one could tell through his excruciating English, was that she was the only person to appeal, as if this somehow invalidated her appeal! How dare she have the temerity to think the council processes were wrong!! We have it all laid out in a letter. Would be laughable if it wasn't so tragic for the victims - the residents and staff.

Mrs Angry said...

I am sorry to hear about your wife's treatment, Anon: I know that there were indeed cases like these where highly professional and hard working librarians lost their posts after a humiliating and demeaning process comparable to redundancy style 'musical chairs'. I would say that if possible you should consider whether or not that process amounted to constructive dismissal.

And yes, Barnet's attitude is that employees and residents alike must simply accept their decisions, even if unlawful, and allow them to waste our money on their hare-brained schemes, rather than make sensible and pragmatic decisions on budgetary demands.