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The Cabinet put forward the 'review' of pedestrianising the seafront and taxing older vehicles

Updated: Jan 2

Place Scrutiny Committee Monday, 28th November 2022 at 6:30pm


For my avid readership, I must apologise for the tardiness of my review of the Place Scrutiny meeting that took place last month.


I had previously bemoaned the fact that some of the meetings lasted no longer than 5 minutes - including declarations of interest - so it was a great joy to find this one coming in at 4 hours 25!


There were not a great deal of items on the agenda, just a lot of councillors making a lot of points. Not a slight - better to be thorough than otherwise.


Scrutiny committees are supposed to be interrogative by nature and I was pleased to observe this to be the case.


The Cabinet (a small group of councillors from made up of the current coalition of Labour, Lib Dems, and the Independent Group) function as the decision-makers for the city, and their decisions are then questioned by several different committees such as this one. If the committee is satisfied the policy is on its way to being ratified. If not, it will get referenced back to Cabinet which should then look to address the issues highlighted.


One of the items on the agenda was the 10-year parking strategy, which had three points: the part-pedestrianisation of the seafront; the taxation of older vehicles in the name of the environment; and the eventual removal of cash to pay at the parking meter.


Seafront Pedestrianisation


Where to start with this one?!


It was 1 hour and 38 minutes of committee members ripping apart the portfolio holder’s position.


The situation is that a consultation was put to the public as to whether the idea of pedestrianising parts of the seafront was a good indeed a good one.


The result was that around 200 people took part of which 52% voted in favour.


Clearly, this is practically useless as generating information that would help inform a policy one way or another. One hundred people of a population of almost two hundred thousand is not democracy.


Unfortunately, the Council Officers responsible felt these results were worthy of inclusion in the paper and worthy of use to indicate that it should indeed be considered as a policy to be considered or reviewed - or words to that effect.


As rightly pointed out by many in the committee, it was unclear as to whether pedestrianising parts of the seafront was an agreed policy or whether it was merely to be reviewed.


The portfolio holder (the Cabinet member responsible for this area of council business) had stated on BBC Essex his personal position that he does not want the seafront pedestrianised.


The problem is that this contradicts the document he was presenting to the committee to agree!


His answer to committee members highlighting this contradiction is that this idea is just that - an idea only.


After being subjected to a thorough and thoroughly deserved interrogation, he was given 10 minutes to re-word this part of the document to make it clear whether it is the policy or merely an idea to be reviewed. It was like watching a school classmate get chastised, but the level of incompetence was so competent that out of sympathy another chance was given for some last-minute redemption.


The Chair of the committee provided him another option: to start again with the whole process and come back when ready. He declined.


More confusion emanated when it was said that the consultation was not actually in the body of the document, further implying that this was not a policy, it was just there for review. This was all hard to follow!


I am surprised that all rejected ideas would go into the appendices of a parking strategy because they would serve merely to confuse and distract - which this had achieved. If they stated categorically that a consultation was carried out, and despite a 52% majority only 200 people voted so it had been rejected out of hand, then that would have been perfectly acceptable. This was not the case.


The portfolio holder and his supporting officer took their 10 minutes to re-write the back-of-a-fag-packet policy and came up with the recommendation to change the wording from the cabinet will “adopt the policy” to “explore the options”.


By the end, I was still under the distinct impression that they intend to review this as a serious policy to implement at some point over the next 10 years.


Thankfully, the committee voted to reference it back to Cabinet.


For clarity, Confelicity have already voted within its manifesto not to pedestrianise the seafront. It would kill the seafront in the same way the road in the high street is killing the shops.


Taxing Older Vehicles


The next worrying policy is taxing older vehicles to negate their environmental impact.


This will punish people that cannot afford a new car. When will policymakers understand that robbing more of our money is not the solution?!!!


The drive for clean air quality is right, but this solution will not address the issue adequately.


Make active travel as convenient and attractive as possible so that if and when people do take the plunge they might actually think of continuing.


Using tax to beat us around the head is such a poor policy and I will be suggesting a policy for our manifesto 2023 to prevent this from ever happening.


Cashless Parking Meters


The final policy that I personally dislike is cashless parking meters. I am against a cashless society in principle due to many reasons I will go into in the future, but in this case, it is easier just to say that privacy and mental capacity are two broad reasons to retain cash.


I sincerely hope the Cabinet pays attention to issues highlighted by the committee and come back with a parking document that only includes policies that are genuinely going to be considered, rather than this charade of 'it's in the report but we’re not really doing it.'


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