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TAKING THE P OUT OF SANDWELL

01-06-2009

Shoppers and residents in Wednesbury are set to pay more in the latest town to introduce parking charges as Sandwell Council rolls out a money grabbing intitiative. Lynn Hawthorne argues that there's still time to reverse the decision.

In earlier articles I warned about Sandwell Council’s proposal to introduce parking charges across all its six towns, drawing particular attention to the next town on the list, Wednesbury, where I live.

Councillor Hussain, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods, etc, has assured local residents via the press that he has either entered into consultation with locals or is about to do so. He has even been urged by MP for West Bromwich West, Adrian Bailey, to consult with the people. Councillor Hussain has simply failed to do so. This is the same councillor who has given at least three different conflicting reasons in the interviews I’ve read for bringing in parking charges.

What has happened, however, is that the obligatory notices under Sections 32 & 35 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act, 1984, and the Road Traffic Permitted Parking Area & Special Parking Area Act have been displayed. Well, I say ‘displayed’, if you can count a piece of white A4 paper stuck on a lamppost and on the back of the free parking sign as being displayed.

The charges are planned to be from 8am to 6pm Monday to Saturday, starting at 20p for an hour, rising at 20p increments to £1 for over 4 hours. The alternative is a monthly season ticket of £15 or an annual fee of £150.

Now to those used to London prices or inner city parking, that may seem like a bargain (thanks for those posts on the Messageboard!), but Sandwell is not London. It is a poor place and getting poorer. Wages are low and unemployment is high and there are a significant number of elderly and disabled residents who receive a fixed low income.

Sandwell town centres are integral with residential areas and the knock-on problems of payment refusers (whom I can’t blame) abandoning vehicles in any old space is bound to cause problems for residents, visitors, emergency services, support services and utility vehicles.

Wednesbury is a small town and we are lucky enough to enjoy a range of friendly independent traders. They are either family businesses or employ a few, often part-time workers, and cannot afford to pay high wages. If you slap parking charges onto them, then they effectively take a pay cut.

So what do you do if you’re a shopper? Do you continue to use your hometown, your local town, and pay for the privilege, or do you change your allegiance to larger towns – out of the borough - with more choice for your parking fee?

The introduction of parking charges could sound the death knell for small towns and businesses and should be reconsidered.

So, residents and shoppers of Wednesbury, you were warned and now’s the time for action!

You can view the plans online at: www.sandwell.gov.uk (they’re just maps and not much use) or see the plans with justification (that should be interesting!) at the offices of the Legal Department in Freeth Street, Oldbury, during office hours – but watch out, because they’re bringing in parking charges there as well!

You have until 19th June to object in writing to:

Traffic & Road Safety Manager
Sandwell Council
Lombard Street
West Bromwich
B70 8RU

or by e-mail: highways@sandwell.gov.uk

Objections in writing are now our only way of communicating with decision-makers to show how much we disagree with their proposals. The people of Sandwell have no expense accounts on which to call, merely expense. In a true democracy the voice of dissent should be heard, recognised and realised. This is an opportunity for the people of the borough to discover just how much of a democracy exists in Sandwell.

European elections? Just a sideshow! In Sandwell, vote ‘no’ to parking charges and remember you only have until June 19th to cast your vote!

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