12 July 2012

Park yourselves Councillors and listen

Friern Barnet Photo Archive

as you had to do because having generated a petition with 13,000 signatures the constitution says so. Here is the speech delivered by Helen Michael, the doyenne of the (in particular) North Finchley traders who have dared to stand up and have their voice heard.

I have been a resident in Barnet for over 20 years and I have owned a business here for over 6 years.

Despite the downturn in the economy, I and the other traders were able to run our businesses on a break even basis.

In November 2011 Barnet Council introduced a parking regime without any consultation with traders or residents, increasing the parking  charges by 70%, higher than any other borough and more expensive than Islington, Camden and Westminster.

If I, as an example were to increase my prices by 70% overnight, I would find that my customers would go elsewhere.  This is what has happened to our town centres.

Furthermore, the pay by phone system gives no other choice.  It can be unworkable and your scratch cards are elusive.

Barnet Council has united the whole borough in the issue of the parking.  The other traders and I  can identify to the day our downturn in business to when our meters were removed.

As a result of the strong feelings amongst traders and residents and comments made to us by the public, who are no longer able to pop to Finchley for a newspaper, coffee, sweets or to meet friends without being charge extortionately for the visit.  The traders in Barnet, North Finchley and I prepared a poster campaign and petition.  Over 25 local businesses signed the petition and as you know almost 13,000 members of the public signed the petition supporting our cause.  Most were outraged, some incredulous that Barnet Council could be so short sighted and insensitive to the needs of its traders and residents and more importantly so  undemocratic.

Almost all had concerns about the cost of the parking in our town centres. Others had concerns about standing in the street with mobile phones and credit cards in hand. There is of course an issue regarding the elderly ,the hard of hearing and vulnerable members of our society. A large proportion of people do not feel comfortable registering their details.

As a public facing business who speaks to people from all walks of life on a daily basis, I meet hundreds of people  who share our concerns about the dying high street.  Instead of the Council encouraging shoppers to visit the high street, you are encouraging people to Brent Cross who spend a fortune advertising free parking.

Our car parks now stand empty . Our children play football in the Lodge lane car park and I believe there is dogging in the carp park by Poundland as it is so underused.

The other traders and I suspect the revenue collected from parking has taking a nose dive.  This is obvious to anyone  monitoring the use of the car park sand the parking bays which are now empty, where they were previously  over subscribed.  I am sure that this is the reason why the Council is so reluctant despite repeated requests to furnish us with the revenue figures,. This parking system has been a failure from start to finish for locals, parking traffic and traders.   Even more so for the tax payer whose assets are not being realised to its full potential. If the Council can’t get the parking right, what hope is there with the One Barnet Programmes.

Contrast the council car parks with the Spires in Barnet.  A privately owned car park who  made a proactive commercial decision to cut their charges in order to encourage shoppers/businesses which has a been a roaring success and it is now very difficult to get a space both at weekends and during the week. They still operate cash meter which is commercially viable unlike the Council car parks which are seriously under subscribed.

To date I have attended about 9 Council run meetings regarding our town centres.  I  have been interviewed on national TV and until this came along the only positive action take  by Barnet Council was a visit from the Police regarding our poster. Not satisfied with the local constabulary paying me a visit in the first instant,  Barnet Council have insisted that I be interviewed by the anti terrorist squad of New Scotland Yard. Two trips by two high ranking officers and a two hour  interview, two weeks from the Olympics. Need I say more…

A review is now being undertaken some nine months after the Council introduced this system and the funding from this is from the Outer London Fund.  Surely this matter can be better spent on the High Road.   Note from the questionnaire it does not ask  the traders about the change in turnover, nor the parking needs of their customers, nor what percentage of their customers come by car.

The Council have been aware of the issues regarding their parking regime from the outset.  You have accepted that there is a major problem and we have given you several alternative solutions which will not only benefit the council, but may also help local businesses stay in business in these difficult times, providing we can entice people back to our high roads all of which  have been ignored.

I have visited both East Finchley and Finchley town centres. The parking controls on the side streets appear to be for only one hour per day.   In North Finchley parking controls run all day for the whole of the day.  I notice that both Finchley Central and East Finchley have regenerated themselves, whereas North Finchley is in serious decline. This has got to  be as a direct result of a very expensive parking charges in North Finchley. There is no station around the High Road, North Finchley, so there is no issue regarding commuters.

The questions I wish to have answered on behalf of the Traders are:

How much is this survey costing?
Why is there such a discrepancy between Whetstone, East Finchley, Finchley Central and north Finchley?
The parking revenue, both before and after the parking was introduced for 10 months either side?

The traders want to be involved in any consultation and decision making in advance of any  changes and perhaps a trader or two could sit on the committee. The London Borough of Barnet is struggling.  What is their timetable for review and action. Dean Cohen has suggested 50p for 15 minutes.  Does he think he is doing us a favour.? There is concession for that. It is still £2.00 per hour, far too expensive. We would urge the Council to give shoppers half an hour free parking in order to entice people back to the high road. It seems like it is a foregone conclusion as he still wants to charge 50p for 15 minutes.

How much did it cost to rip out our meters?
Businesses are seriously struggling and some cannot wait a year for something to be done. We need a date when any changes are going to be implemented.
We need your assurances in future that anyone involved in supporting campaigns will not be harassed by the Police opposing Council policies.

Mr Mustard did not make it to Tuesday's full Council meeting at which this fine speech was delivered although he has seen the film. It was slightly cut short at the end by a flustered looking Councillor Richard Cornelius who, like the biased referee at a fairground boxing match, cuts the round short when his man is losing. Your administration are all looking a bit punch drunk at the moment though aren't they? We are only in about round 3 of the One Barnet boxing match and the opposition keeps getting stronger, has lots of energy left to taunt you and is showing every sign of being still standing at the end of Round 10 whilst team One Barnet will be out cold.

Time to take up golf maybe Richard?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

No comments:

Post a Comment

I now moderate comments in the light of the Delfi case. Due to the current high incidence of spam I have had to turn word verification on.