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Feb 03 2014

Harrow Council Announce 20 Minutes Free Parking Plan

susan_hall_leaderSubject to cabinet and council approval, Council Leader Susan Hall outlined her Conservative administration’s plans to introduce 20 minutes free parking across Harrow at a packed press conference earlier this afternoon. Seasoned hacks and amateurs alike, we sat and drank mediocre coffee, to hear how this scheme would work.

Back in October 2013, having scrapped the trial in Rayners Lane, she said “This is not the end of free parking in Harrow by any stretch of the imagination. We will look at it again, but it needs to be on the right platform – for example including payment by phone or other forms of technology – and to be part of a broader mix of measures to encourage visitors and help local businesses.”

Now, three and a half months later, true to her word, she introduced her plans, which would cover the entire borough, and are calculated to be significantly less than the £1,000,000 per year the ILG’s trial scheme would have cost, if rolled out across the borough. The old scheme, if you recall, allowed multiple 20 minute free tickets to be obtained from machines, with little in the way of evidence to issue PCNs where that happened.

Under Cllr Hall’s plans, all 220 Pay and Display machines for on-street parking would be upgraded to take advantage of newer technology. Essentially, you would enter your car registration number into the machine, and a personalised ticket would print out, which could be displayed as normal. Back-office technology would only permit one free ticket, per vehicle, per day across the borough, thus stopping the problem before of drivers taking multiple tickets, one after the other, to gain long periods of free parking.

[pullquote align=”left” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]”We have to deliver what we know residents want…”[/pullquote]In addition, the machines would be able to report back – a ‘call home’ facility, if you like – when they became out of order, ran out of paper or had full coin-boxes. And although she didn’t say as much, it’s entirely possible machines could report back when they were under attack, thus allowing CCTV evidence – or police attendance – to be arranged.

So, what’s the cost? Replacing all machines borough-wide would cost around £436,000 – so call it half a million. The cost (ie: loss of parking income, by permitting 20 minutes free parking) would be around £300,000 per year. So, even with replacing all machines in year one, the total over five years would be just under £2 million: compare that with the £5 million of the ILGs scheme, and it makes immediate financial sense.

Assuming Hall’s plans get everyone on board at the next cabinet and council meeting, it is envisaged that thhe first machines could be rolled out in early March, with the rest of the borough completed within just a few months. Also, were parking costs to change later, these could be deployed at – literally – the click of a mouse from the Civic Centre: no need for someone to visit all 200 machines to reprogram them.

Hall denies it’s a political move: “ILG did it with a good heart, ” she said, “but the scheme was abused.”

Payment by coins will continue, at least for the forseeable future. “We have an aging population, ” she said. “Maybe in ten years time, that could be the time to phase out coins, but at the moment, we’ll continue to accept them.” All good news, given the noise over in Barnet about eliminating cash from pay and display machines.

Where’s the money coming from to pay for this scheme? “Unused contingency, ” said Cllr Tony Ferrari, Hall’s Portfolio Holder for Finance. “It makes sense to have a contingency fund, as long as their is real risk,” he continued. Having an fund in a decreasing-risk period is clearly like having your money stuffed in a mattress: safe, but it’s not doing anything for you.

hall_and_parking_meter“We have to deliver what we know residents want,” finished Hall. And a 2000-signature petition is clearly a pretty powerful way of getting that message across.

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5 comments

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  1. Harrow Dude

    “Unused contingency” more smoke and mirrors from the Tory party…

  2. Cllr Willy Stoodley

    Those figures are from fairyland. As soon as the technology became available ANY party would have used it. Fact is with the ILG the residents of Harrow would have had free parking in time for Christmas. Fact is with the Tories they didn’t. And still haven’t.

  3. Cllr Krishna James

    Oh the contingency money, Do you mean the £2m that is for social care for people most in need. I am seeing terrible situations on the ground where people who are least able to pay are being asked to pay for social care. Money has been magicked by stealing from another pot. ah well that is politics but not the correct kind, ILG have a Heart which many others lack. We were actually listening to the people of Harrow and making a difference, the true values of a socialist party. Strange forces got together and threw out the constitution of Harrow so where is respect for the people of Harrow. The borough moto is that ‘the welfare of the people is of utmost importance’ most elected people appear to have forgotten this.

  4. Harrow Dude

    Susie last year you said the council lose an estimated £541,000 a year in pay-and -display income and £310,000 in fines from parking tickets. With the additional cost of upgrading all the ticket machines even though last year you were planning to remove machines to reduce maintenance costs, these figures do not add up. (£4.69 million not the £2 million reported) “it is envisaged that he first machines could be rolled out in early March”
    Susie I envisage that this is another bold attempt to solicit votes…
    It’ll take more than one 20 min free permit a day to convince me.

  5. All things good

    Cllr James let me remind you of a much bigger amount being ‘stolen’ from another pot. In December 2010 the Harrow Times reported under the head line ‘Harrow Council faces budget hole after officers overspend school projects’. This in fact was under the Direction of the director of schools at that time, who after the event lost her job and was quietly seconded out the back door. The amount taken from other ‘pots’ was an overspend of a whopping £6.3 million and guess who was in power when it happened, LABOUR! To this day we as taxpayers do not know where it was stripped from, and whether it has been replaced as promised by Michael Lockwood? Forgive me for not feeling sorry for you, but it begs the question why we have Cllrs?

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