Free parking is a costly policy

In a reply to my letter published last week, Labour county councillor Alan Sambrook has referred to a Lib Council that penalised people living in Morpeth by introducing parking charges in Morpeth town centre but not in Ponteland.

I think he is referring to 1999 when 19 councillors at Castle Morpeth Borough Council formed a joint administration, which had 12 Independent and seven Liberal Democrat councillors.

Three of the Independent councillors were members of Morpeth Chamber of Trade.

A disc parking system had been operating in Morpeth town centre and there was widespread concern over its ineffectiveness.

Alan chooses not to mention that for a further period of six years until it was abolished in 2009, he was a leading member of subsequent Borough Council administrations. These administrations chose to maintain car parking charges in Morpeth town centre and not introduce them in Ponteland village.

We now have a situation where the current Labour administration at County Hall plans to increase council tax and introduce free car parking in Morpeth and elsewhere in the county.

They intend to recover the cost from every council taxpayer, including low income families, irrespective of whether they have a car or use other forms of transport.

As a result, they will lose a Government freeze grant worth more than half the proposed increase in council tax.

They also plan to charge families £450 a year for post-16 student travel.

The previous Lib Dem administration, at County Hall for the last three years, funded the travel costs of post-16 students and accepted Government grants for freezing council tax.

As Alan demonstrates in his letter, Labour’s policy is to increase council tax and blame Government rather than themselves.

Over a 10-year period up to March 2008, a Labour-controlled Northumberland County Council, with a Labour Government at Westminster, doubled the county council element of the council tax.

Time is running out before county councillors meet to agree the details of a budget for 2014/15. Traders in Morpeth are expressing concern, no doubt based on their experience of the 1990s, that with the return of a disc system people will not use the car parks properly and workers will be clogging up the short-stay car parks.

Before a decision is made on February 18, the Labour administration at County Hall should provide the public with clear details of how the public car parks in Morpeth town centre and elsewhere will continue to be managed effectively.