Tuesday, June 20, 2017

What price to shop in CWaC?

I try to always start these blogs with things that I like. However, like many people I know, shopping isn't one of them. The dawn of internet shopping hasn't made that particular hobby any more interesting for me but every now and then when the mood strikes me I really do like to go to a town and peruse the offers and stroll the pavement looking for the items I want.

It normally doesn't take me too long, I go armed with a list or have already pretty much decided what I want to buy - if I impulse buy I usually spend to much money and then am spending the next few days time justifying the purchase to my understandably annoyed wife.

Whether I am in a minority or a majority is unclear but there are many people who wish or need to go to the shops and for those who want to (or must do) the issue of parking (fees, no fees, Badges, schemes, parks, drop off zones, waiting zones etc.) can be a very big concern.

We are very lucky in CWaC as many of our towns have free parking or can offer such great incentives like "free after three" which allows the afternoon/evening economy to thrive without taking away the income required to maintain car parks in those areas where charges exist.

OK - so what? Why am I tattling on about Car Parks - obviously not the most interesting topic in the western world is it?

Well - perhaps it should be, especially for us lucky people who live in Winsford. You know, the town that as yet does not have the super deluxe shopping centre to which many would love to spend their afternoons and evenings at.

What do we do when we want to "go to the shops"? I suspect a lot of us drive off to Northwich, to gaze in admiration at the newly developed Barons Quay and stand in awe. Perhaps we go to the cinema or coffee shops or other fine, new establishments?  What would you say that it's going to start costing you to park in Northwich (currently it's free) after the Labour run CWaC council introduce parking charges?

I'm hearing the headlines now "Winsford residents taxed for not having a new shopping centre" because whichever way we look at it, that is what it effectively is if we decided to leave Winsford and go to Northwich, Chester* or indeed Ellesmere Port* to do a bit of shopping.

*With removal of "free after three"

"They're not going to introduce charges in Winsford are they?" I hear you scream. Thankfully not, thankfully not YET anyway is the answer. But if they are willing to introduce those charges now into Northwich, while the development is finding its feet and struggling to secure enough footfall without charges, what will it do to the rest of the plans, which are already faltering under labour? Will it really encourage more businesses to set up in Northwich or elsewhere?

OK - this might mean a windfall for us in Winsford because maybe, just maybe, those companies will want to set up here, as we will look attractive without those charges. In the detail, Labour have already own-goaled that idea as they have declared a desire to start charging as soon as possible.

What else was in that report? A lorry park in Winsford, more parking for the old high street.....truly excellent ideas that have my support. Getting Labour to deliver them is a bit more tricky, they've been slated as "medium" term , which to you or me means 5 - 10 years. So, charges now on shopping in other towns but 5 years before we get anything back. Starting to sound the complete opposite of a magic money tree, eh Mr Corbyn?

Thankfully, within CWaC we have something called scrutiny and we exercise the right to scrutinise reports and decisions which affect the residents of this borough (the type of things we Councillors do that doesn't really get seen by residents). The draft borough-wide parking strategy was scrutinised last night (19th June) in a marathon 4 hour meeting held at HQ in Chester.

Labour normally get these items through with a few recommendations and their usually poorly thought out strategies and pet projects continue along unabated as they have the majority on the council and therefore have a majority on every committee, including the scrutiny ones. Perhaps now you see why we in opposition keep a keen eye on events such as councillors who get pulled up for poor behaviour in Chester night clubs.The balance of power is a fine indeed within CWaC.

But last night was different.....for such important and contentious issues such as parking, Labour didn't have a majority present. I wont get into that as there may have been a perfectly good reason for it. What is probably worth a mention is that Cabinet Member for Economic Development wasn't there...Really? Given that car parking charges might have a direct economic consequence?

Thankfully we Tories could see that if you are going to bring in any charges, then you had better take a good look at the economic impact first.We voted for and indeed passed a recommendation that a full economic assessment be done before any decisions be made. We consider this as simple economics, although Labour keep failing to grasp this.

No doubt Labour will make a hullabaloo about this recommendation being above and beyond what was asked of the scrutiny committee. Of course they would, as they were the ones who asked the scrutiny committee narrow and specific questions. We Tories think somewhat different and feel it a duty to point out to Cabinet (where the report goes) if we feel a mistake is being made.

The Cabinet Member for Environment (Cllr Shore) has to decide whether she accepts the recommendation from Scrutiny when recommending (or not) implementing parking charges. You can find her already clear answers in the webcast to decide whether she is for or against.


For Labour, introducing parking charges will not be a popular decision. We Conservatives have urged them to consider taking all aspects into account first, a first impression is that, as usual, they have not.

Until then, enjoy your Saturday afternoons - wherever you shop.

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