As we reported in January (and it has also been widely reported in national newspapers) Lambeth Council has embarked on a poster advertising campaign with the slogan, 'The government has cut our money so we are forced to cut services.' The advert is also proudly displayed on the top of its website. Instead of spending taxpayers' money wisely - and generating advertising income from its poster sites - Lambeth wasted it in a party political gesture, trying to pass the blame for its wasteful spending onto the government.
After hearing about the poster campaign, I wondered how Lambeth Council would generate more income, as I knew it would not cut the amount of unnecessary jobs. The thought of reducing the size of its bloated bureaucracy is an anathema to this borough council.
A supporter contacted us last week and gave me a partial answer to my question. If someone - such as a builder or a plumber - is coming to your home and needs to park their vehicle for the day, you have to purchase a parking permit. This is called a traders' day permit. It currently costs £2.60. From 21 February this will increase to a massive £18.75!
After reading about this in the press, Rebecca Pearson (she is happy for us to use her name) immediately contacted the council to find out if this was true. She also wanted to know if permits bought before this date were still valid. This is a simple question that should have got a reply within days, but instead she was passed from pillar to post. She found it difficult to get replies to her e-mails, and her phone calls went unanswered. She made her initial enquiry on 13 January, and when she finally got an answer on 8 February, there was a sting in the tail. She was told by Coral Pearce, Business Performance and Development Officer, that permits sold before February 21 would be valid, but Ms Pearce went on to say:
Permits will only be sold where the full criteria is met and in the case of Traders Permits, applications must be accompanied by sufficient evidence to prove building works will be carried out on the property. The purpose of Traders Permits is to facilitate specific building works for short term works only and is not meant to be stock piled. If a parking space is required for long term use then the customer should apply for a parking suspension. Any suspected fraudulent use or purchases of these permits will be passed onto our fraud team to investigate.
A simple enquiry turned out to be a battle involving councillors and council officers, and instead of a simple yes or no, the council is also threatening residents with legal action of they don't jump through every hoop it sets. I would argue that if you can't stockpile these permits for a rainy day when your roof leaks or your pipes burst, what are you supposed to do? E-mail a video of water leaking into your home to satisfy bureaucrats you are not guilty of fraud just to enable a plumber to park their van outside your home?
The massive increase in the cost of permits cannot be justified, and the heavy-handed way it tries to threaten residents goes to prove Lambeth Council is not there to serve the people; it expects to be served.