LibDems Call In Cambridge Park And Ride Charging Plan

david_jenkins08:22 Tuesday 11th September 2013
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

[P]AUL STAINTON: Conservative county councillors in Cambridgeshire have voted in favour of bringing in parking charges of a pound at Cambridgeshire’s five council run park and ride sites. The decision has been called in or challenged if you like by the County’s Liberal Democrats, who claim it’s been brought in without consultation and without adequate scrutiny of the risk. Last night Andy Campbell the boss of Stagecoach who runs the park and ride bus service said they’d previously offered to run the sites for free at no cost to the Council. Now David Jenkins is the LibDem’s spokesman on Planning and Environment and Enterprise and is with us now. Morning David.
DAVID JENKINS: Good morning Paul.
PAUL STAINTON: So you’ve asked for this decision to be called in or challenged. Why?
DAVID JENKINS: Well basically because the decision is not obviously a good one to take. If you had a look at the papers that went to Cabinet yesterday, it’s barely two sides of A4 addressing this issue. There is insufficient evidence to justify the decision. No consultation took place with local members or local people to find out whether or not it was a good idea. And quite frankly the consequences have not been thought through. It may be a good idea, but the case just has not been made.
PAUL STAINTON: Right. But we do need to find a million pounds to keep running these park and ride schemes. Now have you come up with any alternative proposals?
DAVID JENKINS: We don’t need to find a million pounds to run the park and ride schemes. We need to find an awful lot of money to plug the gaps in our finances because of the reduction in the Government grant.
PAUL STAINTON: But it costs a million pounds to run these sites.
DAVID JENKINS: It certainly does cost a million pounds to run the sites, as many council services cost money to run.
PAUL STAINTON: What are your alternative plans then to plug some of these gaps and find this money?
DAVID JENKINS: Well, the park and ride services in Cambridgeshire are tremendously successful. Valuable pieces of real estate. Thousands of people going through them every day. Certainly we can do a great deal more with them to exploit the value of the sites.
PAUL STAINTON: What could we do?
DAVID JENKINS: We could run retail ventures there. We can use them for overnight parking. We¬†can expand their use as local transport hubs. There are probably half a dozen different options, including charging for parking. And we need to look at all of them in the round and decide what’s the best way to exploit these assets.
PAUL STAINTON: So you’re not ruling out parking charges. What you’re saying is you just want a wider discussion and a bit more consultation.
DAVID JENKINS: I think the parking charges are a possibility. It should be looked at properly. And we should make sure that they really will give us the benefit that we expect, and that we’re not just grabbing at a bit of low hanging fruit which may be rotten.
PAUL STAINTON: Is that why in your opinion this has been rushed through by the Conservatives?
DAVID JENKINS: Yes. And it’s the Conservative Cabinet of course which has taken this decision. It’s not even the Full Council. Inadequate consultation. Not enough data in the papers to be able to make an informed decision. And not enough thought through consequences.
PAUL STAINTON: Did you not speak to the Conservative cabinet members before this was pushed through? Did you not have a conversation?
DAVID JENKINS: I did not. No. I was talking to officers and I indicated the willingness to talk to them, but nothing came back.
PAUL STAINTON: Right. And what’s been the response since you’ve called this in? Is everybody going to get round a table and have a little chat?
DAVID JENKINS: What happens now of course is that it goes through Scrutiny, and Scrutiny will decide on one of a number of courses of action. And it’s Scrutiny that will effectively be around the table, have a chat, exercise takes place.
PAUL STAINTON: And what do you expect to happen?
DAVID JENKINS: I expect that there will be qualified .. I don’t know, because of course we’re in new terrain here. We haven’t had a Scrutiny call-in since the new Council came in to place. Tories don’t have a majority on Scrutiny, so anything could come out of it.
PAUL STAINTON: Right. So it’s all up in the air really.
DAVID JENKINS: It is up in the air. Yes. I don’t particularly want to slow things down. As you point out there is a need to make savings here. But we must make our decisions correctly, and choose the right things to do.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. And that’s the problem here, isn’t it? The Council cannot afford for this to drag on and on and on.
DAVID JENKINS: That’s correct.
PAUL STAINTON: Well, we wait with bated breath David to see what occurs with this. David Jenkins LibDem’s spokesman on Planning and Environment and Enterprise. The decision to charge a pound at Cambridgeshire’s five park and ride sites has been challenged by the county’s LibDems, and it will now go to Scrutiny Committee. We did ask to speak to one of the Conservative Cabinet members, Mc McGuire, County councillor in charge of Transport, but the County Council failed to get back to us., so we’ve not been able to talk to him this morning, but when we can we will.