A formal challenge to Merton Labour’s plans to massively increase parking charges based on where people live has been lodged by Lib Dem councillors.
The Council Cabinet forced agreed the plan at its meeting on 15 July 2019, and in response, an application to “call in” the decision was made by the Liberal Democrat group on Saturday 20th July.
Lib Dem council group leader Anthony Fairclough said:
“The Labour administration says these new charges will reduce traffic and encourage people to give up their cars, but they’ve repeatedly failed to provide any evidence that suggests this is likely to happen1.
“The scheme looks like it’s purely to raise revenue, mainly targeted at people who live in areas that don’t elect Labour councillors – Wimbledon and Raynes Park – where the new charges will be highest. We hope that the ‘call-in’ will force them to look at their plans again.
"Instead we want them to look seriously at schemes where the worst polluting vehicles pay more, where support is given to help people change to greener vehicles, and where other positive action is also taken to improve air quality."
In addition, Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Wimbledon, Cllr Paul Kohler, is speaking to lawyers from the same firm who represented him in his legal action to save Wimbledon Police Station, about whether the measures are legal.
“Facts matter: how can Labour say that raising taxes on parked cars will improve air quality and health outcomes when council officers have confirmed that no such evidence has been provided?
“Furthermore, Council officers indicated that some older and disabled people, women who are pregnant or who have just given birth, and those with lower incomes could be badly affected by the policy2, and yet there doesn’t seem to have been any real consultation with those affected about how to reduce the negative impact. This is basic equality law.
“I am currently consulting my lawyers to see whether we can challenge this policy in the courts as discriminatory. I took the Mayor of London to court to reverse his unlawful decision to close Wimbledon Police Station and I’m quite willing to do the same with Merton Council if solicitors confirm we have a good case.”
“I hope sense will prevail, as I have no wish to embroil our Council in legal action. All I am asking is that they adopt a non-discriminatory approach to addressing the very real financial pressures caused by the Government’s failure to fund local government properly.
“The decision lacks: evidence that it will improve air quality; logic - they are increasing costs in those areas where air quality is best; principle - they are only applying it to areas that tend not to vote Labour; and buy-in - with over 3000 submissions to the consultation3 nearly all of whom opposed the measures.”
The "Call in" process: there is a description of the process and its effect here.
. Council officers indicated that none of the evidence presented to Cabinet showed that increasing parking charges for residents’ permits would reduce car ownership, at the Sustainable Communities Overview and Scrutiny Panel on 27 June 2019. See the answers given to questions from Cllr Fairclough on Youtube here.
. The potentially discriminatory aspects of the policy are detailed in the Council’s Equality Assessment (presented both at Scrutiny and to Cabinet). Council officers indicated that stakeholder groups had not been directly consulted with over the suggested mitigation, at the Sustainable Communities Overview and Scrutiny Panel on 27 June 2019.
. No submission to the formal consultation by the Merton Conservatives is indicated in the Appendix 2 of the Report to the Sustainable Communities Overview and Scrutiny Panel on 27 June 2019, that outlined consultation responses received.