Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Finchley Traders have had enough!

Last night I attended a meeting of Finchley traders, to discuss their response to the council, who have done nothing about parking in the 6 months since Brian Coleman was unceremoniously dumped in the GLA election. It is clear to everyone that the council have damaged the local High Street severely with their parking policies. When Coleman was sacked as Borough Parking Officer (AKA Cabinet member responsible for shafting local business), they had a fantastic opportunity to reverse the damage. Coleman first proposed the parking massacre in August 2011 and it was implemented in November 2012. That is four months. Dean Cohen has been in charge for six months and we don't even have any proposals.

As well as local traders, we also had two Labour Councillors and a Conservative cabinet member. The Tories sent David Longstaff, who seems to be the candidate for the sane brand of Conservative in Barnet. David made a  startling confession to me last night. I hope he will forgive me for sharing this indescretion. He said "You do realise I didn't get elected to screw everything up in Barnet?".  Yes David, I believe you, but as you are a cabinet member, now is the time to step up to the job.

For Labour, we had Alan Schneiderman and Pauline Coakley-Webb. Alan is probably the smartest cookie on the Labour benches, always well on top of his brief. Pauline is the voice of common sense, a business owner who is straight talking. I find it mildly amusing that the Labour party is becoming the party of small business in Barnet. The Conservatives seem to have walked away from the sector completely, which strikes me as a bit of a silly strategy.

So on to the meeting. The agenda consisted of three topics and was chaired by Julia Hines, chair of Age UK Barnet.

1. The effects of Scratchcards
2. What Traders want to see happen.
3. How we can get there

The discussion was interesting and it was 100% clear what the views of traders was.

Traders were dismissive of scratchcards. They felt these were of no benefit whatsoever. One trader told me after that as a solution, this resembled going to the doctor with cancer and being told "don't worry about that, we want to operate on your ingrown toenail". Several traders stated that the system was unworkable and told of drivers being ticketed whilst they purchased the cards.

The discussion as to what people wanted was again very straightforward. People wanted a return to pay and display. New meters which accepted credit cards would be even better. Traders spoke of improvements to operating hours. It was suggested that the CPZ hours could be adjusted. Other suggestions were adoption of the Federation of Small business proposal to have 1/2 hour free parking. My fellow Barnet blogger gave some start facts, 160,000 parking tickets were issued in Barnet this year, a rise of 30,000 on last year. That is 30,000 extra voters who have been alienated. Parking revenue is down, so the wardens are being made to work overtime to catch up.

Helen Michael asked the traders for a solution, local trader Paul Shea suggested full page adverts in the local paper. Traders agreed. The Barnet Eye detailed the price of these adverts and the assembled traders agreed to fund this. The Barnet Eye suggested that Councillor Longstaff report back to the leadership on the meeting. If there is no satisfactory movement from the council, the adverts will be placed next week. Other traders also agreed to display posters .

Gail Lazar of Barnet Traders suggested other messages to boost high streets, including pop up shops and other improvements. Some traders were sceptical and others resented the suggestion that other businesses could be given rent free periods, as they had to pay.

The meeting finished with Councillor Longstaff agreeing to do what he could to ensure that the Leadership fully understood the strength of feeling.

Mr Mustard observes as NSL parking warden tickets car on bay with vandalised sign
Prior to the meeting, there was a rather amusing (for us, not the motorist concerned) incident, where a NSL traffic warden was caught giving a motorist a ticket, despite signs being vandalised. As both Mr Mustard and myself were there, we indulged in some mischief.
As you can see, the sign on the left of the car has been vandalised and is unreadable
Mr Mustard left his card with the motorist and then explained to her that she should not pay the fine.

It is rather saddening that the Council has engaged in a war with its own residents. It is disgusting that unpaid bloggers seem to be the people left to fight the corner for residents, rather than the elected and rather well paid councillors running the adminstration

The Hendon Times reported on the meeting last night


Mr Mustard said...

Hey Mr Declan Hoare, AD of Highways & something else (Transport I think) have a look at this.

I keep telling you that invisible lines should not be enforced and you desparately try to avoid agreeing to cease enforcement where the bay lines are invisible as the council will lose money. Most recently I told you about Woodside Grove near the hospice but there is no mercy for the about to be bereaved from the council.

Can you see the bay markings in the above photgraphs. That's right, they are completely non compliant. Any ticket issued there can be appealed.

Actually Roger I think the increase in parking tickets is from 2 years ago but they have been ramped up to raise revenue whichever period it was from.

Mrs Angry said...

I think the Finchley traders are right to get tough now: the wrap around is a brilliant idea. What fools the Tories are, to allow Coleman to alienate the small business owners of this borough, wait for us to set up his fall from grace, and then sit on their hands failing to put right the damage he has caused. Longstaff seems to be the only one who realises the extent of seriousness of the situation: but will they listen to him? I doubt it.

Mr Mustard said...

Maybe we need goldenarse in the pub after meetings as well as Richard Cornelius (who I have invited or will invite if I haven't, I can't remember, is beer destroying my brain cells?) to see if we can get through to them in a friendly neutral environment.