Thursday, 1 March 2012
Later today, our caring Conservative council will most probably railroad through its so-called “budget” by using its majority to stifle objections. Where have we seen that done before?
The key features of the council’s cunning plan to make money for the year ahead reminds us of the phrase shooting fish in a barrel - charging those who have no choice but to pay for services that they have to make use of .
They include car parkers - with the contentious introduction of charges for disabled blue badge holders - and the customers of the borough’s cemetery and crematorium.
The only concession that our “leaders” have offered is a so-called additional thirty free minutes for disabled drivers now forced to pay - to give them extra time to hobble back to their cars.
However, it ain’t over until the fat lady sings, as they say - and ahead of tonight’s meeting, protests are still being voiced.
Boston’s Labour councillors have declared on their website that, overall, they are disappointed with the way the Tories have handled parking issues.
“We feel they should have properly consulted with disabled people before they put their proposals forward. At this stage it is very unlikely that Boston Labour councillors will be supporting them with this year’s budget.
“We are not convinced that the administration at West Street have understood the complex issues regarding parking, as parking is seen as the key to the success of most towns. In a recent report by Mary Portas, one of her recommendations was that local areas should implement free controlled parking schemes that work for their town centres.
“It is also doubtful that they understand the full implications for blue badge holders. In other parts of the country, free parking is available for people with severe mobility problems. Those who receive the higher rate of Disability Living Allowance/War Pensioners Mobility Supplement, also receive a free tax disc for their vehicles because of the greater medical problems they have with mobility. This tax disc carries the word “DISABLED” on it and the fee section shows “0:00” - so it is easily recognised.
“We suggested that Boston Borough Council could adopt the same scheme …. - which - … is very simple to use for both the disabled person and the council’s own traffic wardens.
"IF the blue badge holder/driver is in receipt of a “FREE” tax disc, then they don’t pay to park – ALL others DO pay. Disappointingly, they chose not to take up this option.
“We don’t believe that they fully understood the recent case rulings in Lincoln and Norwich where disabled drivers successfully won their cases against the councils and forced them to change their decisions. We would certainly urge disabled drivers who are unhappy with these decisions, to challenge the council if they intend to continue with these dogmatic views on parking charges.”
“We would urge members of the public to attend the meeting at West Street on 1st March at 6.30pm if they feel strongly about any of these issues.”
Independent borough councillor Carol Taylor also entered the fray ahead of tonight’s meeting with an e-mail to Boston Eye.
“Car parking has to be one of the most contentious issues in our everyday lives,” she wrote, “so it is good to see that the council have fully considered and reflected the concerns of those holding a blue disabled badge by giving them an extra 30 minutes.
“I am assuming that this 30-minute reprieve was due to extensive research led by the Portfolio Holder - and not just a number arrived at through general chit chat.
“This brings me to my question, How DID the council select this 30 minutes?
“This extra time allowance suggests to me that everyone who has a blue badge has the same level of disability. Surely this cannot be true!
“Allow me to give an example. If someone is suffering from the debilitating illness of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and needs constant oxygen therapy 24 hrs a day, do they really only need 30 minutes extra to get to the shops and back ? I know that they will be taken to the shops using a wheelchair, but someone suffering with this illness needs to do everything at a very slow pace, e.g. getting in and out of a car can often cause great distress and difficulty and can lead to exacerbation of their condition. This then has the potential to result in emergency admission to hospital.
“If, however, we have someone with the same illness, which becomes a problem only as a result of another acute medical episode, they can walk at a very reasonable pace - so wouldn't require that extra 30 minutes.
“Please accept my apologies if indeed this decision was as a result of all blue badge holders’ opinions and that also the council went out and about to talk to those who have been affected by this newly introduced car parking charge.
“This proposal is subject to full council approval tonight. But consider this.
“There are more voters in the administration than other political and independent voters combined. This is a proposal from the current administration, will they vote against their own proposal? I think not.
“They could of course do a 'U' turn and really listen to the public!
“Finally, remember that council meetings are held in the public domain unless otherwise stated - so if blue badge holders are against this, then let it be known at the full council meeting.
Another salvo comes from Boston man Martin Robbins, who challenged Borough Council "leader" Peter Bedford about a number of issues – including the decision to charge disabled blue badge holders to park.
In the Leader’s reply, he said that the needs of blue badge holders had been fully considered by the council’s cabinet, ahead of tonight’s budget vote.
However, Mr Robbins continues his attack in a second open letter to Councillor Bedford.
“I note your idea of an EXTRA half an hour which would be free once someone had brought a parking ticket. I find this offensive when you make the disabled pay, yet make no mention of removing the concessions that councillors and council staff enjoy.
”As for your statement that you and the cabinet have fully considered and reflected the needs of blue badge holders, then you would have continued to allow blue badge holders to park for free for up to three hours in all council parks, and thus bring business to the town.
“My advice to Boston’s blue badge holders is to read your booklet from the Department of Transport “The Blue Badge scheme: rights and responsibilities in England.” It tells you where you are legally entitled to park for FREE - and park there in Boston.
“Speaking for myself, I’m going to shop at Morrison’s, Somerfield’s, Asda or Tesco’s and NOT shop in town at all. These businesses welcome my business and DON’T charge me to park!”
Sadly, we can’t be at tonight’s meeting – but we would welcome e-mails from any “citizen journalists” present who would like to tell us what went on.
You can write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org Your e-mails will be treated in confidence and published anonymously if requested.
Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com