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Parking Tax - An Open Letter to SSDC Portfolio Holders
Below is an open letter sent to Councillor Henry Hobhouse (Castle Cary) and Councillor Tim Carroll (Yeovil South) at South Somerset District Council as the portfolio holders responsible for the car parking charges (or the alternative car park "TAX") being inflicted by them on the peoples of Wincanton and Castle Cary. It has also been sent to Councillor Ric Pallister as the Liberal Democrat leader of South Somerset District Council and the man with overall control.
Dear Councillors Carroll & Hobhouse,
I am writing to you both as joint portfolio holders with the responsibility for car parking and therefore the proposals for the car park tax in Castle Cary and Wincanton.
It was stated by Vega Sturgess that charging would be introduced by 1st April if a "compensation" tax was not paid by the respective town councils. Understandably the Town Councils feel rather aggrieved at the bullying tactics employed by the District Council. Both know, as indeed you do, that charging for car parks in their market towns would be devastating as confirmed by the findings published by Mary Portas, the coalition government's advisor on High Streets.
The tax is almost certainly illegal on two fronts.
Firstly there is ample case law that states that the traffic management Act 1984 can't be used as a tax-raising measure. One such example of case law is:
As Mr Justice McCullough said in Cran v Camden London Borough, Council  RTR 346 at 347, when speaking of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984:
"[It] is not a revenue raising Act. Where there is ambiguity the citizen is not to be taxed unless the language of the legislation clearly imposes the obligation."
Secondly, and especially with the Wincanton case, but also applying to Castle Cary, there has been no impact assessment, no consultation with the town councils, the people, equality and diversity groups including the disabled, or the business community. You are no doubt aware of the problems encountered by the County Council with regard to library closures and lack of consultation. You have attempted to railroad both Town Councils into handing over quantities of cash by your proposals with no time for any proper consultative process.
Moreover figures used are, in Wincanton's case, nothing to do with Wincanton but Ilminster, a town whose only similarity is its population. Ilminster has the benefit of a town centre health centre and a large supermarket with free car parking close to the centre, so it is no comparison. The figures for parking usage in Wincanton are already out of date, as since your count Wincanton's health centre has moved out of town taking a lot of car park demand with it. You also seem to assume that if parking charges were introduced car park usage would remain as if it were free. Clearly this is again more calculations based on flawed figures.
I strongly suggest that the short deadline of April imposed by you on Wincanton and Castle Cary town councils for resolving this issue is cancelled with immediate effect, and such time allowed for carrying out a proper impact assessment and having consultations with all interested parties to comply with correct procedure.
Proposals from 2007, figures based on a non comparable town and complete lack of consultation are not acceptable.
Councillor Nick Colbert
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