Town Council Round-Up: Parking And Partnership Plans
January 8th 2014The first town council meeting of the new year revolved around car parking, and LCC Parking Services Manager Mick Phoenix and Ian Mickleborough from Highways came to make a presentation and answer any questions about civil parking enforcement.
In the public forum, Jackie Featherstone was critical of the problems caused by ELDC's car parking charge hike. "This forced a lot of people into parking on the street, " she said. "If some concessions had been made, this might have eased some of the congestion. A lot of the side streets are getting filled up. I feel that the parking charges have not really helped ... I think it's just very sad that the town of Louth is getting a bit of a battering."
Misbehaviour in the GatherumsCouncillor Jill Makinson-Sanders raised the topic of public order problems in the Gatherums, with drivers doing handbrake turns in Queen Street car park. "All through the evening there seem to be different gangs."
Councillor Margaret Ottaway encouraged people to do something rather than criticise the police.
Recently a notice has gone up in the park, alerting people that the police are aware this area is a hotspot for antisocial behaviour, so they tend to keep an eye on it. In my view, it's also a hotspot for social behaviour because of its status as a well-lit, natural meeting place. Sometimes it's too social, if the used condoms I've sometimes noticed down Paradise Smoot, which leads off from the park, are any indication. Protip: if a guy says he'll take you to paradise, don't settle for a darkened alley on a popular dog-walking route.
My point is, where people are social, they're also antisocial, and I don't think the situation has changed much following the introduction of better lighting and CCTV when the park was regenerated in 2007. The best way to bring down crime and poor behaviour is to report it or, if you feel safe doing so, ask the perpetrators to stop.
Parking enforcementMick Phoenix dealt with a number of questions the town council raised, the first being whether the town council can have input into the areas being enforced. Mr Phoenix told the council they can't influence policy, however he qualified this: "You can report issues that are going on."
He explained in detail the rules on loading and unloading on yellow lines. "There is a misconception," he said. "You can load and unload. The observation period begins when the activity has stopped."
Another question was, why does the enforcement officer ride a scooter? "Because it's too far to walk from Skegness," Mr Phoenix said. "He is allowed to park in restricted areas when he is carrying out his duties."
Another hot topic is how much money the service is bringing in through fines. Mr Phoenix reported a "slight surplus" of £50,000 this year. "My task is not to cost the taxpayer any money. That money is ring-fenced." In future, as drivers get used to the system, he explained that he expected the service to issue fewer penalty charges.
The town council also queried Sunday enforcement. "The restrictions generally run Monday to Saturday," Mr Phoenix said. "Issuing wise Louth is quite small on a Sunday. Louth is very compliant compared to Boston. We don't target anything other than what people tell us is a problem."
Councillor George Horton raised the issue of the surplus.
"If the service got into a deficit the district council would have to fund it," Mr Phoenix replied.
Councillor Horton also complained about "a certain taxi office" parking their cars inappropriately.
"If they're obstructing the road that's a police matter," Mr Phoenix said.
Councillor Laura Stephenson returned to the issue of loading, saying "I wouldn't feel okay in Louth leaving my boot open. So how does the enforcement officer know [someone is loading or unloading]?"
Mr Phoenix replied that a receipt from a supermarket would be taken into consideration in an appeal.
Councillor Margaret Ottaway questioned the cost of petrol when it comes to Sunday enforcement.
"We don't take cost effectiveness into account," Mr Phoenix replied.
If that's the truth, they're one of very few council services that have that privilege.
Councillor Andrew Leonard questioned the common sense of some of the penalties the enforcement officer on the scooter has handed out.
"He is not allowed to show discretion," Mr Phoenix said. "The discretion comes in at appeal."
It's looking increasingly like the large number of appeals that get granted is by design rather than accident. The council also queried allowing more parking permits for residents. Ian Mickleborough explained why they don't favour that idea. "There is a danger that permits can get out of hand. People try it on a bit."
Councillor Trevor Marris had some praise, however. "The enforcement officers you have now are a big improvement on the ones you had before."
"There are some of our shops whose footfall has gone down," Councillor Makinson-Sanders said. "We have to keep our market towns vibrant." She also appealed for more money for filling pot-holes in Louth.
Louth town partnershipNicola Marshall has recently become the new town manager, with Roz Laggan as her assistant, so she gave a short presentation to introduce herself and update the council on the work of the Louth Town Partnership. She spoke of their aims to make LTP more sustainable, to recruit more members, and to secure funding. She mentioned the possibility of offering memberships to businesses. There's a new Love Louth website. The organisation is making moves towards having a front door on the high street, and possibly becoming a Community Interest Company.
Ms Marshall commented on the parking issues, saying " The feedback is, it can create a kind of hostile atmosphere."
My take is, the LTP has proven that it can hold great events on a regular basis, and make them profitable. But funding has always been an issue, and I'm not convinced a brick and mortar presence will be affordable for this type of organisation, particularly when the district council is facing cutbacks which may affect the partnership.
The preceptTalking of cutbacks, the town council discussed their annual precept for 2014/15 of £213,112. There was talk of a 24.4% reduction on the previous year, although on what, I'm not entirely sure (part of the budget, all of the budget? In 2013-14 the gross precept was £212,304.)
Councillor Brian Burnett commented that "the reduction was slightly less than the 25% we expected." The council voted in favour of submitting this request to ELDC for approval.
24.4% sounds like a pretty serious loss which could have a big effect on what the council can do, so a reduction of almost a quarter seems extremely harsh, but I may have misunderstood the meaning of those figures.
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