Councillor Andrea Mann
Councillor Andrea Mann

I’d like to start with an analogy. I’d like you to imagine that you have a TV and internet package from, say, Sky (other providers are available). Your package includes Sky TV and broadband internet. Let’s chuck in Sky Sports too. Oh, and Sky Cinema. For this service, you pay £63 a month.

Now let’s imagine that, through no fault or request of your own, Sky hands over the running of its TV & broadband service to another company.

This company is going to take Sky Sports off your package. And Sky Cinema. And why not the broadband, too.

But it’s still going to expect you to pay £63 a month.

I think everyone in this Chamber would agree that this wouldn’t be fair.

But this is what the Council did to residents of Churchill Gardens estate. Only it wasn’t their TV service they were reducing, of course – it was the vital issue of parking enforcement.

In October 2016, CityWest Homes took over parking enforcement on Churchill Gardens from Wings Parking.

They did this a) Without informing residents that they had done so; and b) Knowing that they couldn’t legally offer the same service and knowing full well – because they’ve admitted this to us in a meeting – that people could take advantage of this new system.

And yet they still expected residents to keep paying the same full price for their permits – without offering the same level of enforcement; without a TMO being put in place.

This isn’t just unfair – it’s led to huge problems on Churchill Gardens:

  • People parking for free all over the estate. Something which began by word of mouth – because residents weren’t ever officially informed about the change – then became widespread. It made permits effectively moot – because paying for a parking permit isn’t just about paying for permission to park; it’s about paying for access over others who haven’t paid for that permission.
  • Huge congestion on the estate, due to this free parking situation. This includes vehicles parked where they shouldn’t be, parked illegally, parked on double yellow lines. You only need to look at the Twitter feed of the Residents Association to see photos of multiple daily occurrences of this.

Most importantly:

  • It’s led to real fears among residents and us councillors that emergency vehicles will have trouble accessing properties as a result of the congestion. We already know of at least one fire engine that had trouble on Churchill Gardens Road; and there have been serious access difficulties recently to Gilbert and Sullivan Houses, with the west end of Lupus Street also being closed at the moment because of gas works.

The delays to the enforcement of a TMO have meant these problems have been allowed to run and run. A TMO which the Council got approval for in January 2017 and which we’re now told won’t start to be put in place until April 2019, and which could then take up to 12 weeks to implement.

Now, I completely understand that, legally, CityWest Homes haven’t been able to enforce parking in the same way as Wings.

But the Council can’t have it both ways – it can’t say that it hasn’t been allowed to enforce parking in the same way, yet still expect residents to pay in the same way.

It also isn’t enough to have simply given residents a short payment holiday. While that’s welcome, to return to my Sky analogy: this is the equivalent of the new provider taking all those channels away from me, still expecting me to keep paying full price for two years, and then telling me: I can watch for free for a while, while they sort it all out.

Compensating Churchill Gardens residents who paid for permits between late 2016 and 2018 is simply a matter of fairness. And I’ve repeatedly pointed out to the Cabinet Member that if it’s not possible for this compensation to be financial, then the equivalent free parking – so if you paid for a parking permit for, say, six months, you get six months’ parking free – would also be completely acceptable.

The Council expected residents to do the right thing throughout this and keep paying for their parking permits – and residents did.

It’s only right that the Council does the right thing now, too.

And it’s not too late for it to do so.

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