Council urged not to break 'promise' on parking charge

parking meter

The town hall is set to introduce emissions based parking charges. - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

The town hall has been urged not to break "a promise" by charging people for their first parking permit.

Councillors were urged to reconsider Newham's plan to introduce an emissions based charge at a council meeting on Monday, December 14.

Resident Liam Adam said: "One argument made about [the council's] new  tax is that every other borough has a similar charge.

"The main problem: the other boroughs didn't make a promise to residents that the first car permit would always be free.

"You can all pretend that was a previous council, but the vast majority of Newham residents, who own a car, don't see it that way.

"Their trust in democracy is now further weakened and they feel cheated."

LBN full council meeting

Resident Liam Adam urged Newham Council to reconsider its parking plan. - Credit: LBN

Mr Adam went on to explain that while 89 per cent of people who responded to a consultation were opposed to the plan, the town hall brought it forward anyway.

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A total of 4,600 people have signed petitions against it as well, he added.

Under the scheme, the most polluting vehicles will cost more to park in Newham. The changes are due to come into operation from January as part of efforts to encourage people to switch to less polluting vehicles.

Mr Adam, referring to the town hall's democracy commission, asked councillors: "What is the point of spending money promoting democracy if you're going to abuse it at your convenience?"

Cllr James Asser, cabinet member for transport, said the issue is complicated and the measure was brought forward earlier in the year as part of the council's three year budget.

He explained how Newham has seen the worst air pollution in the country and has some of the highest asthma rates for under 18s.

He added that Newham's dirty air also creates long term health conditions which can make Covid-19 worse.

Mr Adam was joined by fellow resident Sham Ruparelia who both acknowledged the need to clean up Newham's dirty air. They argued the borough needs more electric vehicle charging points.

Cllr Asser said regional and central government needs to offer more support to roll out charging points, but more are coming.

Mr Adam went on to ask whether it was conceivable the council was asking less prosperous families to pay while those who have driveways escape the charge.

"That is the unfairness at the heart of this tax. Please don't bring this tax in next year, because you are going to hurt a lot of people really badly," he said.

The town hall previously agreed to temporarily cut the cost by 20 per cent because of the impact of Covid-19.

Cllr Susan Masters, who put a motion criticising the scheme on hold, vowed to work with colleagues on the council's watchdog overview and scrutiny committee to review the scheme.

Cllr Suga Thekkeppurayil urged colleagues to think about the people they serve while Cllr Joshua Garfield asked how the council should address the imbalance of people who use bikes, buses and trains subsidising motorists if not by charging for the first vehicle.

"Driving has been the cheapest mode of transport in London for decades," Cllr Garfield said.

However, Mr Adam shot back that driving isn't cheaper than public transport with taxes, maintenance and high insurance costs hitting pockets harder.

He went on to ask why London doesn't get more money back from central government to fund the capital's roads, with TfL having to plug funding gaps with cash better spent on public transport.

Sadiq Khan has called on the government to allow the capital to keep the £500million raised annually from vehicle excise duty charged to drivers in London.

Cllr Asser said more councils will move to emissions based parking charges and Newham would be looking at moving towards paying by instalment.

He added: "The first duty of any elected official is to protect the health of residents. Sometimes that requires us to make difficult decisions."

Mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz, offered to meet Mr Adam and Mr Ruparelia in part to address misrepresentations of the scheme.