|Look, pedestrians, probably spending money in local shops|
Last night Mr Mustard attended, along with other local business people and concerned residents, an open meeting of the Task & Finish Group about the possibility of installing cash parking meters once again.
Very little notice was given of the meetings and local bloggers, activists and residents associations, as well as the local paper all spread the word.
There were five people who had asked to speak (Mr Mustard had misunderstood, he put his evidence in and rather thought councillors would decide who they wanted to hear from but no, you self selected) and they all spoke eloquently of the devastation to their businesses (Helen Michael of Cafe Buzz and Paul Shea of Tally Ho Discount (very good for fruit and veg), both of which businesses mostly get paid in cash so their customers evidently have it to hand) and of changes to their shopping patterns (residents Barbara & Bob Jacobson) which led them to go places where parking is easier to pay for or free. There was a fair bit of heckling when Gail Laser, who represents the traders of High Barnet was refused permission as she hadn't put in her request in time and Cllr Gordon managed to get himself into a bit of a knot by saying he had only heard of traders from North Finchley and then refuse for a spare 5 minutes of time to be given to Gail who some councillors, and most of the audience, wanted to hear from.
Dan of the Barnet Bugle was doing sterling service as per usual, see his footage here, Mr Mustard showed his appreciation afterwards by buying him a pint of shandy in the Greyhound and shocked the staff by telling them that he had been under-charged. They totalled up his round again and accepted another £3.60 from him. You can't slip an obvious error by Mr Mustard.
When it came to the question of the whole galaxy of written submission, which councillors had probably all read in advance, Mr Mustard rather expected some open discussion of them. That was not to be. Instead Cllr Dean Cohen was allowed to the table to tell us how marvellous things were in High Barnet and Mill Hill and so on, based upon just one written submission, the one that partly favoured not having cash but in which it was pointed out that most of the provision in High Barnet is private car parking and takes cash. You couldn't make it up.
Anyone, then thank goodness Cllr Gordon said something which probably had the "Leader" Richard Cornelius groaning (Mr Mustard was in the front row and hadn't seen Richard come in from some other meeting) inwardly (Mr Mustard did invite Richard for a pint in the Greyhound but he had the missus with him, the Leaderene as she is apparently known so Mr Mustard offered to buy her a drink as well. Fighting back is very civilised in High Barnet but neither of them showed up). Anyway what Cllr Gordon asked aloud was
Is this (return of cash meters) economically viable?
How would it affect the budget?
What cuts would have to be made elsewhere?
If ever you wanted proof that Barnet Council is involved in illegal revenue raising from parking then that was it.
As an aside this morning a PATAS adjudicator asked Mr Mustard why he helped people with their appeals. He told her there were 9 reasons of which one was that the council were using parking tickets as revenue raisers (they all do that in London she said, whilst earning £50 an hour as part of the process!) and another that donations get made for charity. She described Mr Mustard's behaviour as strange which it may be but it also effective (although he was on a very rare review of an Appeal, which was granted, so the PCN was back in play for a second Appeal but his client blatantly parked where another person wouldn't have done and has probably done himself in despite the best efforts of Mr Mustard on the technical side).
There was one written submission which was sent to councillors but not to governance so it didn't get published. It is rather good so here it is in full:
To: 'email@example.com'; 'firstname.lastname@example.org'; 'email@example.com'; 'firstname.lastname@example.org'; 'email@example.com'
Subject: Parking Policy (Cash Meters) Task and Finish Group
We are writing to you to implore you to bring back cash parking meters to our car parks and high streets.
Since November 2011 when the meters were disabled trade has been drastically down.
Time and time again first time customers who have made a dedicated trip to our specialist sweet and sugarcraft shop have been so frustrated that they cannot pay for parking and let us know that they will not be returning. You cannot expect people from other boroughs to register for pay by phone or risk searching for a scratch card vendor. They simply will not do it and to pretend that we’ve all got to move with the times is nonsense and ignores the facts: cashless parking is killing the high streets. This is not a situation where one solution is the fix and pay by phone and card payment methods are what is required in addition to cash payments.
In light of our current national economic circumstances the council should be doing all it can to help bring trade to our high streets rather than put up barriers. With the unfair competition from the expansion of out of town shopping centres and the redevelopment of Brent Cross (which have plentiful free parking) we need to make sure that the vitality of our local communities is maintained. The restoration of cash parking would be a start, periods of free parking such as free after three would then be a small step in the right direction.
Please bring back cash parking meters!
Alice and Michael Kentish
88 High Street, Barnet, Herts, EN5 5SN
There is another meeting on Thursday at 7pm at which the decision will be taken as to whether to recommend the return of cash meters or not. Please do go as Mr Mustard can't make that one.