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Not voting in parking charges meeting was protest, says Carlisle councillor

In anger at the “done deal” on imposed parking charges in Carlisle, councillors refused to cast their votes in a knife-edge debate – and lost their chance to scupper them.

Carlisle councillors photo
Rob Betton, left and Bill Graham

Related: Carlisle's county councillors back on-street parking charges

The city yesterday came a step closer to seeing on-St parking meters introduced after a crucial vote by councillors backed the plan by just one vote.

The decision by Cumbria County Council’s Carlisle local committee could be ratified in eight days, after which the public would get a further 21 days to give their views on how to implement the charges.

Yesterday’s vote saw independent councillors Robert Betton and Bill Graham – both outspoken opponents of the charges – refuse to take part.

Had they voted, they could have reversed the result.

Mr Betton said he refused to vote as a protest over what was says was a “done deal”. He told the News & Star he had abstained in protest.

“I could’ve swung it but I’m not being part of a political game,” he said. “It’s totally run by politics, not people. People don’t even come into it.”

He went on to criticise the ruling executive of the county council for failing to listen to local people, labelling them “dictatorial”.

“I couldn’t have stopped it. Nobody could have stopped it. It’s a done deal by the ruling Labour/Lib Dem executive. It’s too late, they have made their decision.”

But now Mr Betton is coming under fire from traders who are angry he didn’t use his vote to halt the controversial proposals, which have attracted widespread opposition across the county.

Cumbria County Council is behind the plans to introduce on-St parking charges in 11 areas, including Carlisle. The executive says it has to take tough decisions after the Government cut its budget by millions.

Now it is up to the local committees in each district to approve the plans and apply for formal traffic orders. Allerdale’s committee rebelled and there were hopes Carlisle would do the same.

Following a heated debate, Conservative councillors demanded a named vote, which was lost by eight votes for to seven against, with two abstentions.

Viv Dodd, secretary of the Carlisle City Centre Business Group, had previously told councillors that the move could be the final nail in the coffin for some traders.

Afterwards he said he was “extremely disappointed” that Mr Betton and Mr Graham had refused to vote, especially after Mr Betton had spoken out against it at the meeting.

“If the two independents had voted it would have been defeated. I can’t understand why anyone gets elected and then abstains,” he said.

But Mr Betton said that even if they had voted against it, the council’s executive would still have pushed it through.

Mr Graham told the News & Star he abstained from voting this time after opposing the plans twice – once at full council and once by “calling them in” for further scrutiny.

“It was a difficult decision but if we voted against it again it would just go to the executive, then be sent back again. Where does it end?” he said.

“I might not like it but it’s been voted for. These are hard times. Where else is the money coming from for services?”

The only other independent, Trevor Allison, voted against. He said he did not feel the initial consultation had involved enough people and called for the process to be halted while another was carried out.

However, county council leader Stewart Young said they had “tried very hard” to involve as many people as possible and the response was actually among their highest ever.

He added that parking charges would only apply on the busiest Sts.

“Our funding is being cut. We are having to make some tough decisions. Cumbria is one of the few, if not only, area in the country that doesn’t have some sort of on-St parking charge,” he said.

Mr Young added that parking enforcement cost the council money, whereas the charges would make it sustainable for the future. He added that the only other option would be to stop enforcing parking at all and leave Sts as a free for all.

As well as hearing concerns from traders, the committee was also addressed by residents from the city’s historic quarter who supported the on-St parking charges. They said at present about 120 cars an hour drive around that area looking to park for free, making their lives a misery.

Carlisle City Council has opposed the charges. Following the meeting leader Colin Glover said he was disappointed but appreciated it was a difficult decision.

Formal traffic orders will now be applied for to make the charges legal.

John Bell (Labour)
Christine Bowditch (Labour)
Deborah Earl (Labour)
Beth Furneaux (Labour)
Hugh McDevitt (Labour)
Reg Watson (Labour)
Stewart Young (Labour)
Cyril Weber (Labour)

Lawrence Fisher (Conservative)
Elizabeth Mallinson (Conservative)
John Mallinson (Conservative)
Nick Marriner (Conservative)
Alan Toole (Conservative)
Val Tarbitt (Conservative)
Trevor Allison (Independent)

Rob Betton (Independent)
Bill Graham (Independent)

Related: Traders condemn new parking charges in Cumbrian town

Have your say

Carlisle is the county's administrative capital and the only City for many miles in any direction. Cumbrian's living out of town often combine business visits to offices in town with shopping and visits to restaurants & bars thereby adding to the tourist activity, bringing considerable spending power into the city. I fail to see the logic in reducing peoples access to the city centre, by charging for street parking while large out of town stores have free parking. City centre shops will become less attractive if you can't load your shopping nearby and I believe many will go out of business. As a small business owner on the fringes of the city, I object vehemently to these parking charge even though I do not drive myself and use public transport. There is currently FREE street parking outside Kates Guest House B&B Carlisle and I hope that this continues. If parking charges are imposed outside my premises, I will have no alternative but to join the ranks of the unemployed and I think I will not be the only one.

Posted by Kate Dawes on 3 August 2014 at 11:16

Cyril, as residents in a parking zone we will have to pay for permits to park not outside our homes but just in the vicinity as will everybody who lives in,a permit zone no matter how far away they are from town.unlike some other areas of the town we have not been given residents only zones. And before you jump On "the you choose to live there bandwagon" if they can do it to us they can do it to you just because you live on an estate out of town it doesn't make you safe! And really annoyed business man the count was done about 3 yrs ago and is on going.. As for living in the city centre who do you think it is who uses local shops and recommends them to tourists etc yes those very residents that you are slagging off....we've never had an issue with trying to promote local shops etc but don't forget we also put alot of money into town centre shops AND some of us are putting alot of time effort and money into making the area attractive residents breath life into what after 5pm would be an empty desolate area... And if your business is failing maybe it your own attitude to customers that needs to be looked at!

Posted by city centre resident on 28 July 2014 at 22:39

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