Rum goings-on up at Blackheath’s Old Dover Road, where Greenwich Council is “consulting” on a plan to make people pay for their parking by mobile phone. It’s the kind of shopping street many would rhapsodise about and cherish, with lots of little independent retailers. But not in the “royal” borough of Greenwich, which is the landlord to those independent shopkeepers, many of whom complain about steep rent increases.
That same landlord is also whacking up parking charges. You might have noticed this website isn’t particularly sympathetic to car drivers. But the real problem on Old Dover Road isn’t traffic, as such – it’s the idiots who double-park or wait in the middle of the road to avoid parking charges.
The real sting in the plan, though, is to trial paying for parking by mobile phone – doing away with the need to maintain pay-and-display machines. Unfortunately, many of those who drive up to Old Dover Road are elderly. These aren’t the sort of people who’ll have mobile phones. Yet some bright spark in Woolwich has decided to trial this scheme here. Of course, this has gone down like a cup of cold sick, with a 1,400-strong petition against the plan.
Anyway, the whole thing has now gone out to consultation. Except it hasn’t. Because where the consultation had gone online earlier this week…
…it has now vanished again. Another proposal, for Eltham, has also gone west.
Information about the consultation is also difficult to come across. I’m told by a local that “Blackheath Library is devoid of information”, despite being directly affected by the scheme, while this week’s issue of propaganda rag Royal Greenwich Time (seriously, that’s what they’re calling it now) contains no news at all about this.
It’s usually easier to point to cock-up rather than conspiracy. But this website understands that local Labour councillors – including the party’s sole Blackheath Westcombe representative Alex Grant – are openly rebelling against the plan. There’s trouble in the usually docile Greenwich Labour ranks. Could the battle over Old Dover Road be the start of something bigger? Watch this space.
11.10am update: Greenwich Council has backed down on the pay-by-mobile proposal, It’s just been announced. (Thank you to the Westcombe Society for letting me know by email.) A new set of proposals will go out at a later date.
A belated victory for people power, or a last-ditch attempt to pacify mutinous Labour councillors?
3.15pm update One observer has written to say how Greenwich mayor Jim Gillman – effectively leader Chris Roberts’ stooge – shut down discussion of the now-canned proposal a month ago. “There was a big delegation at the last council meeting. There was a discussion on parking and Alex Grant tried to get in on it – presumably to respond to some of what his constituents had been saying – and the Mayor cut him off and did he usual “We’ve had a long debate on this, would you mind if we left it that”.
1pm Saturday update: Greenwich issued a press release just after 5pm on Friday (ensuring it’d miss the deadlines for the local papers – a regular practice) confirming the plans for Old Dover Road and Eltham had been withdrawn. No mention of the pay-by-mobile plan, but a good mention for government cuts – the cuts that still don’t stop councillors living it up at our expense.
This website understands the pay-per-mobile plan has been withdrawn completely, and the consultation was withdrawn because the pay-by-mobile plan hasn’t even been approved by councillors. If you look at page 24 of this document, approved by the council’s cabinet in December 2010, you’ll see it doesn’t even mention pay-by-mobile, just pay and display.
So Greenwich Council’s leadership was caught trying to push through something its own cabinet hadn’t even agreed to. You can see why there’s some pretty tense feelings in the Labour camp right. If you see them out campaigning this weekend (there’s big pro-Ken push today) – why not smile and ask them about it?