Bath Council’s Undemocratic War on Motorists

Latest news from Bath is that it’s a big two-fingers up to the petitioners and councillors who battled to cut a recent rise in parking charges.

Last year, the TaxPayers’ Alliance in Bath helped the ‘Independent Shops of Bath’ raise a petition protesting at the increase of parking charges in the centre of the city. Some 1400 local shopkeepers, business people, and residents signed it and this triggered a Bath &North East Somerset (B&NES) Council debate in July at which a clear majority of councillors voted in support of a motion calling for a cut in parking charges.

We were then told to wait for the Council Officers’ decision on whether or not they could honour the majority decision to cut parking charges. Well, after six months the answer is here—no way are they going to cut parking charges or reduce hours.

The two main reasons given are that it would interfere with their Transport Strategy—dedicated to discouraging the use of cars in the city—and that it would reduce the amount of money the council earns from car parking charges.

"Due to the clear transport and traffic management benefits of the 'ultra-premium' charges it is not considered possible to remove these at this time," says Cllr Caroline Roberts, B&NES Cabinet Member for Transport, in her letter to Cllr Anthony Clarke, who proposed the successful motion.

"Higher charges within the central areas also can encourage a reduction in car journeys and car use and promote a modal shift in line with the Transport Strategy," continues Cllr Roberts. This Transport Strategy is not only devoted to cutting the use of cars in Bath, but also dramatically reducing the amount of parking spaces available, as witnessed by the recent loss of hundreds of car parking spaces at Avon Street car park. Just the first of many decisions to slash council parking in Bath and force car drivers to use Park & Ride schemes.

When it comes to Cllr Clarke’s additional request to reduce evening charges at the Charlotte Street car park—from 8pm to 7pm—to help the local economy, Bath Council is equally unrelenting.

"It was agreed that this is also not possible at this time as reducing charging hours will encourage cross city car use to specific locations and thus is contrary to the Transport Strategy aims of managing the network," says Cllr Roberts. "Additionally the reduction of charging hours has an impact on the Councils [sic] budget that it is not currently possible to mitigate."

So there you have it. B&NES Council is prepared to ignore a 1400-signature petition and the democratic wish of a majority of councillors because it wants the money from car parking charges and it wants to remove as many cars as possible from the centre of the city—regardless of the negative impact this will have on local businesses and residents.

It should also be noted that this letter was not sent to the lead petitioners, but was only obtained by asking Cllr Clarke to forward it. "It never occurred to me that you, as the petitioner, would not be sent a copy," says Clarke. Doesn’t surprise me...

Tim Newark, South West TaxPayers’ Alliance

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