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Parking Charges in Wincanton - Urgent Public Meeting Wednesday 25th January

Tuesday 24 January 2012, 10:56
By John Smith

John Smith, Wincanton Businesses Together ChairmanWe appeal to all the people of Wincanton, to those who work in Wincanton, and all who visit our fair town regularly to join us on Wednesday 25th January at SSDC Churchfields in the Chamber Meeting Room, when we will explain how SSDC plan to introduce parking charges, to tax you all simply to support your town centre. This is a terrible plan with terrible consequences for our town centre. If SSDC get away with this it will affect everyone.

In 2007, SSDC passed this plan to tax residents who want to shop in their own town centres. They want to tax businesses for the privilege of having a shop/business in their town centres. They want to tax people who have to drive to their town centres to work. How? By introducing parking charges in all SSDC owned car parks.

From a legal point of view I guess that they have the right to do this, subject to appropriate planning permissions. However, from a moral stand point this plan is bound to cause damage to many town centres. We are concerned with two towns in our area: Wincanton and Castle Cary.

Both are small Somerset market towns. Both have developed quality town centres with quality businesses and services over many years. We both suffer from the effects of either edge-of-town supermarkets with free parking, or nearby major towns with numerous super businesses with free parking.

But what can be done about this? Well, our Town Council, our two District Councillors, and WBT have been working hard since before Christmas when SSDC announced that the plan was pending. We have been trying our best to get SSDC to recognise that this plan spells nothing but disaster for our town centres, especially in these tough economic times. Our town centre businesses are weathering the economic storm so far, but it's only fair to say that some of them are hanging on by the skin of their teeth. This plan could cause many of them to go under, or just simply give up and move out, leaving us with many blank spots in our town centres.

On Monday 16th January SSDC sent two delegates to discuss options with our Town Council. Albeit that this plan would directly affect our town business community, WBT was not invited to be part of the discussions. WBT had been in regular correspondence with the leader of this delegation since before Christmas, trying to illustrate the black outlook if the plans went ahead. I was told that SSDC would be more than happy to discuss this with WBT. However when push came to shove, they asked the Town Council for a closed meeting, excluding WBT. I am grateful to Mayor Colin Winder and his Councillors for telling SSDC that they were not interested in a closed meeting and that they believed that WBT and any other interested party should be free to attend.

The meeting on Monday was an eye opener. The SSDC delegates were clearly there with a very clear agenda, and extremely limited authority. They had no powers whatsoever to negotiate in any reasonable way regarding the proposed plans. The agenda was very simple.

1 - SSDC wants finance under the heading of Car Parks. The figure that they talked about came to the region of £26,000 per annum (todays rate).

The options provided by the SSDC delegation were all geared to obtaining that finance. It was only a matter of how Wincanton wants to pay it.

  • Let SSDC introduce parking charges starting from 60p for the first hour up to £1.60 for a day.

This was clearly not acceptable to our Town Council and WBT. So SSDC offered the opportunity for:

  • Wincanton Town Council to purchase the car parks and maintain them in future.
  • Add a figure to the annual Town precept to cover the maintenance of the car parks. That means adding around 10p per week to every house's Council Tax to raise the money that SSDC wants.

So you can see that SSDC have very cleverly put our Town Council into a very tight corner. Let SSDC introduce parking charges that creates hassle and expense for all our residents and visitors to shop in their own town centre. This is more likely to drive more people to out of town shopping and beyond.

The only other alternative means that SSDC get off the hook because our Town Council has to take responsibility for the car parks and all expenses for them. With the pitiful budget that SSDC give Wincanton this would not be possible. It would mean that Wincanton Town Council would have to raise money to take on this responsibility. In effect SSDC would be forcing our loyal Town Council to do their dirty work for them. To me this is morally bankrupt, and our Town Council doesn't deserve this.

Whatever your politics and whatever you think about our Town Council let me tell you that they have my whole-hearted support and respect. They are all unpaid volunteers who care about this town passionately. Too often I hear gripe after gripe about our Council. Sadly those who gripe very rarely do anything about it. Our Council do an amazing job with pitifully small resources, and in a situation like this we see big brother SSDC (the first politically elected level of local government) with its huge budget and rather generously paid management riding rough shod over a local council that doesn't have the financial/legal means to mount the defence that Wincanton deserves.

This is not a political battle. This is simply a battle against a plan which may be (or not) legal, but in this instance is totally immoral. This is a battle against a plan whose sole object is to raise revenue for SSDC at the expense of our town. So I am appealing to all of you who read this article to spread the word about this deep injustice, and to attend the meeting on Wednesday 25th at The Council Chamber in Churchfields (NOT the Town Hall).

We need to see that Chamber packed out and overflowing into the grounds and the car park. If necessary I would like to see every resident and all our businesses and employees out there with umbrellas to protect you in case of rain. This meeting is that important. This is one of those times when the people of Wincanton need to stand up and be counted against this tyrannical attitude being shown by SSDC.

If you have any questions contact the Town Council at the Town Hall, or contact me at and we will do our best to help. See you all on Wednesday.

Additional Note from Town Clerk Sam Skirton

Sam Skirton, Wincanton Town ClerkAs car parking charges are due to be in place by April this year for all three car parks in Wincanton, the Town Council are planning to negotiate with SSDC various options to ensure there are no parking charges in the Town car parks. This is turn will have a financial impact on the next Town Council precept request.

I have arranged a public meeting on Wednesday 25th January 2011, 4:30pm at the Churchfields Council Offices to listen to residents' views on free parking in the Town and raising the precept to enable this.

I realise this may not be a suitable time for all residents therefore I can be contacted on 01963 31693 during office hours or out of hours to answer questions and to record comments for the next Council meeting.




Comments

mandycochrane
Posts: 1
Comment
Timing of Meeting
Reply #1 on : Tue January 24, 2012, 14:21:29
I'm guessing that like the majority of residents, the timing of the meeting just isn't going to make it easy to attend. I'll be stuck at home with two children to look after and my husband doesn't get home from work until 6.00pm.

If the meeting isn't as well-attended as it might be, it certainly won't be for lack of feeling on the subject but lack of opportunity. I'll email Sam with some comments but it's no substitute for being there to hear the proceedings in person and having your own say.
johnbaxter
Posts: 4
Comment
More Heat than Light?
Reply #2 on : Tue January 24, 2012, 16:25:59
John is strong on moral outrage and warm in support of our Town Council. He appears to think the District Council in presenting the Town Council with a choice in their plans to raise what presumably they consider to be vitally needed revenue to have been "totally immoral". He does not however make clear what he and members of WBT are advising the Town Council to do.

As I try to say in my comments "Time for a Reality Check" on Nick Colbert's article it seems that in the end they can either say it is immoral and refuse to engage in raising the precept with appalling and irreversable long term consequences for the town, or vote under protest to raise the precept by around £5.20 per family per annum.

I think this leaves town councillors with the choice between being seen as the council that voted to increase the precept by a small amount to keep free car parks or be remembered as the council that took the decision not to do that which triggered charges and policies of both the District and County Councils that turned the High Street environs into a commercial and community wasteland.
Last Edit: January 24, 2012, 16:33:37 by johnbaxter  
Nick Colbert
Posts: 3
Comment
The Lib/dems just say pay up
Reply #3 on : Tue January 24, 2012, 17:40:37
JB says increase the precept by a small amount. The Towns precept is £154,350 this year, the District Council is demanding £26,520 per year from the people of Wincanton and every year thereafter. Thats not a small amount.

I have already mentioned the money wasted on unsecured loans to gypsies and the lavish salaries, pensions and redundancy terms given to the officers.

I haven't yet mentioned the £300,000+ subsidy they pay to the Yeovil (Octagon) theatre rather than tell them to cut their cloth and be more businesslike. There are plenty of cuts they could make but they would rather bully more money out of Wincanton and Castle Cary residents to spend in Yeovil.
johnbaxter
Posts: 4
Comment
Let's Stick to the Choice Facing the Town Council
Reply #4 on : Wed January 25, 2012, 10:58:52
It is sad that Nick Colbert has tried to make this whole issue party political. The Wincanton Town Council is not elected on party political lines and they will make their decision on the basis of what is best for the town.

Looking at all he has said it is not at all clear what Nick is suggesting the Town Council should do or what he as a District Councillor can or will do.

My interest both as a resident and as someone who cares for the town is to stop both charges in the car parks and meters and wardens on the streets. In that I thought we were agreed.

The facts of the matter now are that Castle Cary Town Council has voted to accept the District Council’s offer at their meeting a week ago and will now raise their precept. This is exactly what Henry Hobhouse their District Councillor (LD) promised that he would do his best to bring about.

Somerton Town Council have already paid a large sum to buy their right to control their own car parks.

All District Council members outside of Area East regardless of party have to support the charging across the District as their electorate would not forgive them for not being seen to be equitable. The District Council could have imposed the charges without offering Wincanton Town Council the opportunity to control the car parks, but instead, as in CastleCary, it is offering them a choice. Increase the precept by a small amount with no change for three years, or accept parking charges in the car parks.

Nick Colbert insists on raising the issue of the wages paid to senior officers as a place where savings could be made. As regards the choice facing the Town Council this is irrelevant. Still the wages of District Council senior officers need to be put in context: Looking at the published figures I note:

The figures are for District Council total remuneration over £50000, followed by Population and Cost per person in £

South Somerset £489,000, 160,000, 3.056
North Dorset £300,000, 64,000, 4.68
Taunton Deane £611,660, 105,000, 5.82
Mendip £453,000, 110,000, 4.11
West Dorset £464,000, 96,712, 4.79
East Devon £580,000, 125,522, 4.62

If you take this list of the total paid to council officers who earn over £50,000 looking at all the surrounding councils, it turns out they are all paying considerably higher salaries per head of population than South Somerset. What is more they are all charging for car parking and they are all Tory controlled.
Last Edit: January 25, 2012, 14:49:18 by johnbaxter  
Nick Colbert
Posts: 3
Comment
The Lib/dems just say pay up
Reply #5 on : Wed January 25, 2012, 14:27:54
John, the reason this is party political is that it is the Lib/dems who are holding a gun to the heads of Wincanton and Castle Cary town councils, it is the Wincanton and Castle Cary Conservative District councillors who are opposing them.

You are quite wrong to suggest that Castle Cary has accepted paying compensation to the District Council. It is true that Henry Hobhouse, Lib/dem, promised that car parking charges would not be introduced and now just shrugs his shoulders and says pay up (compensation) or we will introduce parking charges. I have just checked with three people and Castle Cary are still in negotiation with the District. There is a petition in full swing and a barrister has been consulted regarding both charging and compensation. Castle Cary voted for an increase in their percept to keep options open, understandably they are vehemently opposed to car park charging as it will destroy their town, as it would Wincanton. We shall see if both Town Councils give in to the Lib/dems bully tactics in the fullness of time or not.

You are also wrong to suggest that all District councillors outside Area East support car park charging in small Market towns, they don’t.

It makes you wonder why the coalition government bothered to employ Mary Portas to do a study on keeping High Streets alive when the Liberal Democrats go completely against her number one advice which was “FREE PARKING”.

By all means try and defend the large numbers of highly paid staff in District and County halls, I, and I believe most of the public are not with you and would welcome a reduction in salaries and numbers.
Last Edit: January 25, 2012, 14:29:38 by Nick Colbert  
johnbaxter
Posts: 4
Comment
Castle Cary. The Documents
Reply #6 on : Wed January 25, 2012, 14:47:01
I have been asked by District Councillor and deputy leader Tim Carroll to place these two docs on the WW asap befor the meeting. They have both just entered the public domain on the SSDC website. Draw your own conclusions.

Tim Carroll has explained to me that he cannot attend the meeting or chair the District on this as he has a conflict of interest as a trustee of the Balsam Centre - which of course wants and needs free car parks. Now that people have been able to read this letter I am replacing itwith a link so you can see it and to save space am taking it off the Window. The link is : http://www.southsomerset.gov.uk/media/394483/11._castle_cary_car_parks___income_compensation_scheme.pdf

LETTER FROM CASTLE CARY TOWN COUNCIL TO

Ms Vega Sturgess
Strategic Director, Operations & Customer Focus
South Somerset District Council
The Council Offices
Brympton Way
Yeovil BA20 2HT 18 January 2012


Dear Ms Sturgess,
Castle Cary Car Parks – Car Park Charging Strategy

Further to preliminary discussions with you and other District Council Officers, I am writing on behalf of the Town Council.
The Town Council requests that the District Council reconsiders their current intention to introduce parking charges at the Millbrook and Catherine’s Close Car Parks in Castle Cary.
The strong feeling at a local level in our community is that charges at the car parks in our small town will be against the interests of the community as a whole, as well as damaging to local businesses and many residents.

Failing a change of heart on the part of your Council, the Town Council requests that the installation of pay machines be delayed to give a chance for an agreement to be negotiated as set out below. I confirm that if the District Council refuses to reconsider the intention to raise income from these car parks, then the Town Council, subject to being legally entitled, would be interested to enter into discussions leading to the implementation of an income compensation scheme, subject to conditions and safeguards:

1. This would be an agreement for up to three years, subject to review; the agreement would cover the Millbrook and Catherine’s Close Car Parks.
2. The agreement would be to compensate the District Council for the loss of estimated net income after taking into account associated costs of the car parks which would otherwise be generated, subject to a maximum of £10,000 in the first twelve months (to be borne two thirds Castle Cary and one third Ansford Council respectively).
3. During the three year agreement, should parking charges be raised at the charging car parks elsewhere in the district, any increase be limited to an agreed inflation index, subject to a maximum of 3% in any year; and subject to this falling within the limits of Town and Parish Council expenditure allowed by statute.
4. Payment would be made at the end of each financial year.
5. The arrangement could continue for a further period, subject to review and agreement on both sides.
6. You indicated that the District Council would be prepared to offer enforcement services if and when requested, on a cost neutral basis.
7. Your Officers would be prepared to consider the amendment of allowed maximum allowed parking times in parts of the Car Park with appropriate signage changes.

Finally I must point out that several of our councillors wish the Town Council to receive information from the District Council in order that the contribution from the local councils can be fully justified to residents. Can you therefore please formally confirm the legal authority which enables the District Council to introduce parking charges for these currently free car
parks in April if it so wished. Also, one councillor has passed on the concern expressed by some residents that the District Council is using out-of-date research and analysis in determining Castle Cary’s parking requirements…has any research been undertaken since the 2005 parking strategy, and if so can this information update be made available please?


I look forward to hearing from you in due course. I am sure that both Councils wish good relations and co-operation to continue and wish to thank you and the other officers for your courtesy and consideration when we met to initially discuss this matter.

Yours sincerely,

Alan W Jeffs, Clerk to Castle Cary Town Council

Email copies: Helen Rutter, Town Councillors, J Cronie (Ansford PC)
Last Edit: January 30, 2012, 17:00:14 by johnbaxter  
Nick Colbert
Posts: 3
Comment
Bully tactics
Reply #7 on : Wed January 25, 2012, 15:03:52
So it might be that the District Council is able to use its might to bully the Town councils to hand over residents money to them or face their towns being ruined.

They should be ashamed of themselves!

Posts: 1
Comment
Comment from the editor
Reply #8 on : Wed January 25, 2012, 15:10:15
John and Nick have got the bit between their teeth on this and good for them, but I'd like to open this up a little and invite discussion from OTHER contributors, too.

Question:
What effect would parking charges have on YOUR shopping habits in town?
MrsN
Posts: 1
Comment
Re: Parking Charges in Wincanton - Urgent Public Meeting Wednesday 25th January
Reply #9 on : Wed January 25, 2012, 16:20:03
Its too early for me to attend (also have kids at home) but I wanted to say that I'm disappointed that charges will be made for parking.
Of course it will affect shops and businesses. I often pop up to the Co-Op for bits but now I'll be going to Morrisons/Lidl.
IMO there isn't enough variety of shops here as it is, and if the ones we have end up going out of business then what will be come of Wincanton?
The population is rapidly expanding and we need to encourage new traders and support the ones we have not finish them off and kill the town!
johnsmith
Posts: 3
Comment
Parking Charges
Reply #10 on : Wed January 25, 2012, 16:28:24
Fact:
Parking in Wincanton and Cary is free.

Fact:
Both towns have good town centres with interesting and unique businesses.

Fact:
Our residents and visitors take advantage of the free parking and help keep our town centrs alive.

Fact:
SSDC passed a motion circa 2007 to roll out parking charges in all the car parks that they own.

Fact:
For Wincanton and Cary it was a bad plan then. Nothing has changed.

I challenge anyone with authority at SSDC to tell us one positive thing about the introduction of parking charges for this town.

Yes our car parks have been getting busier. That's because people want to shop here. That is actually a good thing. We don't have any problems with busy car parks.

We do have a minority of idiot drivers who are lazy and think it's their God given right to park on double yellow lines outside banks and food establishment causing obstructions. This issue can be easily solved.

So Wincanton and Cary don't have any parking issues that demand the introduction of charges. Wincanton does have issues that need to be sorted.

Issue:
We are just losing 180 jobs with the closure of Adams Cheese packing plant. What is SSDC going to do about that.

Issue:
Our new Health Centre is now established on the edge of town. This new health Centre is much needed for Wincanton. But I did warn everyone that moving it to the edge of town would mean collateral damage. My view was rejected. However a comment was made at the meeting with Vega Sturgess last week that Carrington Way Car Park has been much quieter since the Health centre moved. I have heard several comments from Hogh Street businesses that their businesses have been affected by the smaller footfall in the Town centre. I am not saying that it was wrong to build the ne Health Centre. All I said was that we would have to accept the collateral damage that has come home to roost.

Issue:
The Health Centre has an appeal on-going to have an inhouse Pharamcy. Whilst the Town Council tried honourably to protect the Town Centre when Safeway moved to the edge of town, I recognise that it is common sense and great for patients to be able to visit the Health Centre for a diagnosis and also to collect your medicines whilst there. That is a good and vital service. I'm sure that the majority of us agree on that.

However this also causes collateral damage to the Town centre yet again. This means the closure of the small Boots Pharmacy at the bottom of town, with the pharmacist mobving to the Health Centre to run the operation there. I will be very surprised if the appeak fails. It shouldn't.

But it doesn't take too many brains to see that this will send more footfall away from the town Centre to the edge of town.

Issue:
With the clear movment of footfall away from the Town Centre how are we to keep out Town centre alive and vibrant? But of course, the answer is simple. We introduce parking charges. That's a popular service with all shoppers and businesses. That will bring the footfall back to our Town Centre.

As a matter of fact this is quite true. Maybe you don't realise it, but Wincanton Town Centre is now Morison's. Why do I say that? Stand at their doors and count the people who shop there daily. Morison's has the biggest footfall in Wincanton, and that means that Morison's is the Town centre. We have a situation where our Town centre and our High Street are two totally separate areas. Great planning.

Issue:
Come on SSDC, engage brain. Anyone with a single cell brain knows that the introduction of parkiong charges will cause even more damage to our High Street. But of course, that doesn't matter, because SSDC don't care about our High Street. If they did they would have looked at the whole picture and seen a town that is fighting to keep a vibrant and interesting High Street. They would have seen the problems and been overflowing with help. But no! SSDC are wholy focused on what they need. Money! Money to fill a hole in their budget.

As chair of WBT I got wind of what was happening before Christmas, so I e-mailed them. I was told that SSDC would be very happy to enter into discussions with WBT to try and help us.

That's why, when SSDC wanted to try and speak to Wincanton Town Council to agree an acceptable solution, they didn't want my e-mail correspondence given to the Town Council. That's why SSDC asked for a closed meeting without input from WBT who just happen to do their best to represent and stand up for our business community. I was only able to attend because the Town Council insisted on an open meeting. At that meeting questions were asked, but the SSDC representatives would not give the answers because I was present representing WBT. I ioffered to leave, but again the Town Council graciously told be to stay put. What happenefd to honest and transparent local government?

SSDC are so eager to discuss the issues with WBT that they are pressing our Town Council to accept one of several proposals, none of which allow for "No Charges To Be Introduced"?

SSDC have passed sentence on Wincanton. You have been sentenced to "Pay parkign Charges".

We have an idea of the charges to be inflicted.

We still don't have clarification about timing, but it is thought that the charges will apply 24 hours, seven days a week.

SSDC want circa £25000 every year, but if they put the meters in they will be seen as the bad boys. This will also drive people to park in side streets, except for the streets where it will be resident parking only via a quarterly charge of £40 for a parking permit. Good move guys.

This will cause such a parking issue that the good people of Wincanton will cry out in horror and our good friends at County will have no option but to introduce more parking restrictions to control it all. Yes that's right. Parking meters on our High Street.

So what can we do? I believe that we need to see an SSDC who at long last recognises that this action will cause untold damage. We need the elected body to have a change of heart and cancel the introduction of parking charges. Surely this is common sense. Surely this is quite simply the right thing to do. This is not about introducing charges because other communities have had them introduced. We are not other communities. WE are Wincanton, and Castle Cary. Our needs are different and that's why I call on SSDC to reconsider this folly which can only result in one huge negative mess.

I am not interested in getting involved in the current battle between passionate Lib Dems and Tories. That doesn't help the issues. We need clarity of thought and clear and true actions if we are to save the integrity of our High Street.

Maybe SSDC will recognise that the new Town centre is Morison's and increas their rates accordingly and reduce the rates of our High Street businesses. That's what should happen when you trade in a desert.

I apologise for my ramble. It was typed in a hurry to get to the meeting. I'll check the spelling later.
Boxhouse
Posts: 1
Comment
Re: Parking Charges in Wincanton - Urgent Public Meeting Wednesday 25th January
Reply #11 on : Wed January 25, 2012, 23:41:07
When I first visited Wincanton, well over ten years ago, the town centre was a far drearier place than it is now. Castle Cary likewise.

With the number of high streets up and down the UK that are suffering dreadfully, we are bucking the trend. I realise that there are some empty units but the number of small one-off independents in our two towns is fantastic.

Through my business, I sell products to many independent shops. We've lost a significant number of them since the downturn and one of the reasons that a number of them have gone is issues with parking.

When considering the amount of money raised by parking charges, we need to take into account the loss of business rates from the empty units that this will produce.

I really would ask that this is re-considered to ensure the continued viability and vibrancy of our towns.
Last Edit: January 25, 2012, 23:44:52 by Boxhouse  
johnsmith
Posts: 3
Comment
Public Meeting
Reply #12 on : Thu January 26, 2012, 13:21:49
It was good to see so many at this important meeting, especially at such short notice. I would like to thank Colin Winder and our hard working Town Council for all their work. As a town we don't give them enough credit. It seems to be easier to vent our frustrations and anger at them rather than encourage them.

The meeting passed much more quickly than I expected, and I think that we were all surprised at the overwhelming majority being in favour of adding circa £12 per house per annum to the town precept to cover parking.

I tried to clarify an important point before the vote was forced through, but wasn't given time to do so.

Everyone was being asked to vote for:

1 - Accept parking charges as suggested by SSDC via a pay and display machine in all our car parks.

2 - Keep parking free by adding circa £12 per head/house to the Town precept.

We all need to be absolutely clear on this issue, if for no other reason than that we have all just committed the people of Wincanton to pay £12 per house per annum for the foreseeable future to cover maintenance and policing of our town car parks.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, except that we are not paying this money to keep parking free in Wincanton. We are paying this money FOR CAR PARKING in Wincanton. Think of it as a Pay As You Go mobile phone. You pay in advance and then make the calls till you need to top up.

We are contracting to give SSDC (subject to negotiations) circa £25000 per annum for the foreseeable future to police and maintain our car parks.

1 - How much does it cost to maintain the car parks on an annual basis?

2 - If we pay £25000 and it only costs £10000 will SSDC refund the balance in that year to our Town Council? Or will that revenue be used by SSDC for car parks elsewhere? Or maybe even to fund another project unrelated to car parking?

3 – Will this finance mean that we have a full time parking warden to police our streets and catch all those guilty of mindless parking on double yellow lines? I doubt it very much. I seem to remember that we will get a shared warden who will be around for 8 hours each week. That sounds really comprehensive to me.

So it is abundantly clear that we were not asked to vote for FREE car parking.

As far as I am concerned the Town Council, WBT, and the people of this town have been manipulated in a disgusting manner by the elected body of SSDC. We have been treated like someone being sentenced in court, but the judge gives us some options as to how the punishment will be carried out.

SSDC have acted in a wholly immoral manner, forcing our Town Council into a corner with no road out other than to agree the very limited and biased options that favour SSDC, and no one else. If SSDC had acted in an honourable way they would have consulted with all parties who would be affected. Have you been asked about this by SSDC? Please let me know if you have and I will be delighted to apologise publicly to SSDC.

If memory serves me right The Wincanton Peoples Plan states quite clearly that the people of this town said they didn’t want parking charges. Even in 2007 when SSDC forced this plan through they allowed the first hour to be free as a concession to shoppers and our High Street businesses. This concession has been dropped. From recent discussion the charges were to be 24/7/365. This is a clear and beneficial amendment to the original plan (sarcasm is all mine)

Let me say right now, LOUD AND CLEAR for all those political animals, that of all the options being FORCED on our community via the Town Council, that this option to add the money to the precept, was indeed the only sensible one to go with, unless we finance our Town Council to purchase the car parks, or unless a deal could be worked out to lease all the car parks for a nominal fee. But even then it would be up to our Town Council to pay for the maintenance. They are confident that SSDC’s figures are in cloud cuckoo land, but it would still mean us all having to pay to avoid meters.

So, I hope that you can all see that Wincanton has yet again been royally shafted by SSDC. Unlike some, I don’t give a jot what colour of party controls SSDC, or indeed County. WBT’s sole aim is to encourage and support our Town Council and our Business and Residential communities. In our eyes the colour of the controlling party makes no difference. We are proud and happy to work very closely with Town, District, and County Councils. The sole criteria that dictates the WBT approach is:

“Is this good for the community of Wincanton?”

If it is we support it whole heartedly. If it isn’t we will fight against it with everything at our disposal.

Parking charges are bad for Wincanton, so we want to fight against it with everything we can. At the meeting it was agreed to add the figure to the precept, but my understanding was that the meeting gave our Town Council the authority to fight this behind the scenes, having protected the town by agreeing to negotiate with SSDC on the precept. WBT will do all it can to support our Town Council in any way we can. We hope that everyone who lives or works in Wincanton will get behind our Town Council 150% as they do their best to fight this on our behalf. On the very short run up to this meeting WBT received e-mails from local businesses who couldn’t attend because of work, but who registered they serious concerns about this whole affair and the way SSDC is treating this town?

In conclusion I challenge SSDC to show us anything in this plan that is good for Wincanton. We have serious need of new employment in this town to make up for Job losses. We have seen our Town Centre migrate to Morison’s, yet our High Street businesses still pay Town centre rates. Our High Street businesses have already seen lower footfall since the new Health Centre opened on the edge of town. One of our local SSDC contacts told the meeting with SSDC that Carrington way Car Park is no longer jammed with cars.

When the Health centre gets its in-house Pharmacy (and it should because it makes good sense) this will mean one of the Boots Pharmacy’s moving out of the Town centre to the Health centre. That means more footfall moving away from the High Street. These are simple but true facts. This is not something that should be blamed on our Health Centre. But when all these individual issue happen the collateral damage to our High Street is compounded, and start to have a serious affect.

Clearly the parking charges, or in our case, the increase in Town Precept is an ingenious master plan created by the SSDC elected body to compensate Wincanton and help us to develop a growing and vibrant High Street, enabling our High Street businesses to fight against the serious flow of traffic to the Town centre at Morison’s.

Come on SSDC, please engage brain. Try and copy what Clegg and Cameron are doing. Try working together for the benefit of the people of Wincanton. Try forgetting party politics for once. Or is that too much for you? The same goes for County, just in case they are still thinking of imposing on-street parking charges.
johnbaxter
Posts: 4
Comment
An Overwhelming Vote
Reply #13 on : Fri January 27, 2012, 00:57:14
Yes, the meeting was absolutely packed out with people standing against the walls and out into the Churchfield grounds.

The Town Clerk Mrs Sam Skirton is to be congratulated in making the options clear for people quickly came to the conclusion that they were not voting about £26,000 and parking charges, but as one said, "the future of the High Street." (Loud applause.)

They called for a vote and OVERWHELMINGLY voted to accept a £12 rise in the annual town council precept to keep the car parks free of meters and the High Street alive.

Despite all the noise being made about the District Council ripping off Wincanton, people quickly saw this is a tiny amount, £1 per month.

It is essential the Town Coucil heeds this vote and however much they wish to protest and challenge the morality of what the District Council has done, they should not vote against raising the precept and so precipitate the introduction of the charges that could kill off the High Street.

The Council Meeting when this will be decided is Monday 13th February at 7.30pm. Come to express your opinion and see how they vote.
Last Edit: January 27, 2012, 01:05:32 by johnbaxter  
Penny Ashton
Posts: 1
Comment
Stand up and be counted
Reply #14 on : Wed February 01, 2012, 13:15:18
John (Smith) - will you be standing when the District elections come? The one thing every councillor learns when lucky enough to be elected is how much easier life was when they were on the outside making comments than on the inside trying to get things done!
johnsmith
Posts: 3
Comment
Stand Up.
Reply #15 on : Tue February 07, 2012, 10:48:53
Hi Penny,

Drat. I thought that I was anonymous. You’ve blown my cover. It's very kind of you to nominate me. I'm very flattered. But as it happens the Tories beat you to it. I was approached and asked to consider standing for District Council at the last election. However I chose not to stand because:

1 - It would have meant signing up to be a member of the Tory Party.

2 - I belong to no party.

3 - I believed then, and still do, that I can do more for Wincanton working with WBT in cooperation with those who want to see this town thrive.

No matter how you look at this party politics seems only to promote the agenda of the particular party and in Wincanton's case I don't think that this has helped, other than to muddy the waters. I’m not saying that part politics is wrong. I am saying that that it tends to cause as may problems as it solves.

I have a lot of respect for Cameron and Clegg who at least try to put their differences aside to benefit the nation. However it’s sad that their own part followers do nothing but complain that they are giving away too much to the other, or not giving enough. At least they are trying. I don't see any cooperation at District or County level to reflect the same attitude as their national leaders. Maybe they don't give a fig about the tax payer. Maybe they should emulate the example of Cameron and Clegg, and work together for the benefit of those who put them in power.

We are all political in the simple way that we all have opinions, but WBT does it's best to be non-political. That's why we are so grateful to work and cooperate locally with both out Town and District Councils. We find that working with and sharing with them is very beneficial to the work we try to do, and for the benefit of the Town as a whole.

WBT will continue to support all good policies/plans that help to support and enhance Wincanton and its Residential and Business Communities. On the other hand we will stand strongly against any plan/policy that we believe is to the detriment of the town.

But thanks for thinking of me. It was a nice thought.

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