Monday, November 08, 2010

Flawed 'green' parking permit scheme

A recent move to Clapham has led to scrutiny of the local regime for resident parking permits, and the news isn't good.

It turns out that Lambeth Borough Council is one of the absurd London authorities that, purportedly in the name of helping the environment, actually charges you more if you wish to leave higher emissions cars parked at home.

Their bizarre idea towards cutting car emissions is to encourage the daytime use of 'gas guzzlers' while making it cheaper to leave the 'green' ones at home allowing people to travel on public transport instead.

Even when introduced, back in 2007, the idea was far from new.

That's not to say Lambeth Council is doing those who have what they deem to be a 'green' car any favours.

Perhaps, historically, the price for a resident's parking permit in the borough has been much higher. But today the lowest price band for a permit for anything other than only a handful of ultra-low emissions, brand new hybrid or diesel-engined city cars still comes in at £90 a year - compared to the blanket £99 for a resident's permit up in Hammersmith.

That's for the charging band below the one in which basic level superminis like the Ford Fiesta and Renault Clio sit. Up another band, a range of very average family cars like the Ford Mondeo and Peugeot 407 face charges of £135 and the owner of a hardly 'gas guzzling' 2.0 litre Ford C-Max (basically, a slightly enlarged Ford Fiesta) would be hit with a charge of £180 to park outside their own house. That's only £20 cheaper than the £200 that the owner of a V8 Range Rover or Aston Martin would be hit with.

Reasonable? Hardly.


No doubt the Lambeth councillors responsible for this ill considered 'green' scheme would defend themselves by saying it's designed to encourage people to switch to lower emissions cars, or even to do away with their car altogether.

But who do they think they're kidding? That's clearly so much 'greenwash', because neither justification remotely stacks up as a realistic option for most people.

Firstly, the idea that car users are all self-indulgently choosing their cars as some kind of luxury and will be persuaded to ditch them altogether when faced with a more expensive parking permit is mind-numbingly ignorant.

Cars are already extremely expensive in many, many ways. No-one would choose to flush the vast cost of purchasing, financing, servicing, insuring, fueling, MOTing and taxing a car unless they absolutely needed one.

Beyond the wealthy, for whom a hundred quid here or there matters little, those still using cars in London are very likely far more hard-pressed financially and actually need a car because they simply can't get everywhere they need to be, carrying everything they need to carry, on public transport.

Hitting these people with extra charges is highly oppressive. Or perhaps we should say, using one of today's buzzwords, 'regressive'. Such people are not the ultra wealthy and have no choice but to pay higher charges if they wish to continue to meet all the needs of their work and family.

Secondly, do these councillors have any idea how much it costs to switch cars? In their fantasy world (and I wonder how many councillors who voted to introduce this scheme actually own and run a car) they presumably expect someone moving into Lambeth, seeing an elevated charge for a parking permit, to decide to go car-shopping.

Yet, even at the lower end of the price spectrum, you'd need to throw at least £1,000 into the budget on top of the value of your old car to get something that'll be fit for, typically, three years ahead.

A lot more if you wish to get something modern and sufficiently environmentally friendly to qualify for the lowest permit charges.

Seriously, how many people do these councillors think are going to choose to drop at least a grand on buying a new car rather than just pay up the extra for a permit?

Cash grab

The scheme quite obviously will not meet the objectives councillors use to justify it. But what it clearly does do is raise large wads of extra cash for the council.

According to
local newspaper reports, it seems an extra £1m was ripped off from Lambeth residents for permits to park outside their own homes in 2007/8 alone - an outrageous 50% increase in income over the year before the 'green' scheme was introduced.

And the scheme does this by - highly regressively - targetting the less well off. It disproportionately affects the middle and lower-income car users who either can't afford the extra charges or don't have a driveway or front garden they can concrete over to escape the council's oppressive financial demands.

Council choice

With this scheme, Lambeth council is basically offering residents the choice of thinking they're either hopelessly ignorant of people's real-world options - or blatantly money-grabbing because they're aware people have no sensible choice other than to pay whatever extra charges they demand.

Having fired an email off to the council about the scheme, I wonder if we'll shortly find out which one it is.

In the meantime, with the prospect of an unacceptably high charge for a residents parking permit in order to leave my very average 2.0 litre Peugeot parked at home, I'm going to be driving it up to Hammersmith every day instead of using public transport.

Well done Lambeth. How to make your residents very green!

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