Parking charge hike for diesel vehicles - our view

Merton Liberal Democrats want fair parking chargesLabour-run Merton Council is proposing to increase parking charges in controlled parking zones for diesel vehicles. This will be £150 "surcharge" phased over 3 years. Instead of the normal £65 cost for a parking permit, the owner of a diesel vehicle will have to pay an additional £90 in 2017/18, £115 in 2018/19 and £150 in 2019/20.

Below is our response to the recent consultation.

Diesel Levy consultation response from Merton Liberal Democrats

In answer to a question from a member of the public on 1 Feb 2017, the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Environment and Housing stated that “Air Pollution in London has been described as a ‘Public Health emergency’”. We agree, and that’s why Merton Liberal Democrats would welcome a focus on improving the borough’s air quality.

We have long been advocates of improving air quality through reduced traffic and congestion – we’ve supported improved cycling facilities, better public transport and living streets. For example, in early 2012, Merton’s Liberal Democrat councillors led the council in calling for the administration to open negotiations with the Mayor about extending the cycle hire scheme. Later that year, Lib Dem councillors proposed a borough-wide “default” 20mph speed limit on residential roads. This has various safety benefits, but limiting the need for acceleration and braking also reduces fuel consumption. Sadly, this option was rejected by the administration and the Conservative opposition.

Any proposal needs to be judged on impact and fairness and we would like to know the following of the administration’s diesel levy:

  1. Given that air pollution is a “public health emergency”, what other options for improving air quality have been considered (whether these are measures to reduce the number of diesel vehicles or otherwise)? And why have they been rejected as against the administration’s current proposals? We understand that Kensington & Chelsea and Camden already have emissions-based parking charges in place, and wonder why Merton is simply looking at this as a long-term possibility, when example schemes already exist?

  2. What is the expected reduction in diesel vehicle numbers resulting from the increased surcharge? From the report provided, this doesn’t appear to have been modelled and should be – it’s a significant flaw in the plans. According to the Cabinet Member, “Encouraging vehicle owners to move away from diesel cars is essential to reducing poor air quality in our borough and in London as a whole.” And yet there has been no analysis as to whether this scheme will change behaviour. Indeed, the Cabinet Member’s response to a question on this bordered on complacent: “I would consider any shift away from polluting vehicles as a success.” The scheme is to be reviewed, but without any idea of what success looks like. A proper framework for review should be put in place.  

  3. Has a full equality impact assessment been carried out? Para 8.1 of the report states that that there are no implications of the scheme on “human rights, equalities and community cohesion”. We disagree. In broad terms, larger, more expensive properties tend to have off-street parking and so will not be affected by the plans. Furthermore, the surcharge could be a factor in residents rejecting new controlled parking zones.

  4. What is the revenue from the surcharge going to be used for? We feel it should be additional funds for improving air quality and the local environment, and stronger support for walking strategies and electric vehicle infrastructure. Can the administration guarantee this will be the case?

We're not convinced the case has been made that this proposal will make the impact suggested: there is no work to show this, and no detail on how the surcharge will be spent. It would be fundamentally dishonest of the administration to be simply using this as a ‘backdoor’ means to increase Council revenue, and it would undermine the stated aim to increase public education on these matters.

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