What on earth is up with Barnet Council? Why can't they just admit they got it completely wrong and sort it out? I am referring to the issues surrounding the enormous stealth taxes which the parking revenues have become. Earlier this month, Brian Coleman lost his seat at the GLA as a direct response of his hugely unpopular policies. Recognising that these policies and Colemans unpopularity could cost them the council, Barnet Tories moved swiftly to sack him from the cabinet and replace him with Dean Cohen who reportedly comes from the sensible wing of the Barnet Tory party.
Cohen has moved quickly to announce a review, scrapping parking charges in some of the Boroughs car parks and promising a look at how the effects of other charges can be mitigated. Sadly none of the measures Dean Cohen has proposed address the three issues which have got Barnet traders and residents hot under the collar. The first of these is the abolition of pay and display machines on the High Streets. The second is the huge hike in parking charges and the third is the huge hike in charges for CPZ permits.
Sadly for everyone failing to address these issues shows that at a basic level, they just don't get it. Abolishing charges at a few council car parks does not address the issue that shops get no passing trade, because motorists who haven't registered, don't have time or the inclination to go through the process if they just want to buy a paper or a packet of cigarettes. It doesn't address the fact that a motorist, even if they have registered, will not pay £2 to park for an hour, whilst they have a cup of tea costing £1.30 at a High Street Cafe. Worst of all, it doesn't address the huge cost of visitors vouchers for people living in CPZ areas. These have gone up from 35p to £4 in ten years. If they had followed the rate of inflation for the same period they would be less than 50p. We have had ten years of Conservative rule in Barnet. They promised us that they would "make the council more effiecient". If this is the case, why does it now cost us more than ten times what it did before, when we visit friends who live in CPZ areas? Surely if they had, as they claimed, made the council more efficient, then costs would have actually decreased.
Sadly though, the idea of efficiency is a myth. We are paying through the nose for fat cat bosses at Barnet. When the Tories took over, the CEO was Leo Boland on a salary of £114,000 a year. Not a bad package you may think. When he left, he was replaced by his understudy, Nick Walkley. The council used the excuse that they needed to pay top dollar to recruit the best staff. How they can justify a salary of £200,000 a year to attract Walkley who already worked for them, I just don't know.
It is interesting that the difference between Bolands package and Walkleys package is £86,000. Rather oddly, this is more or less exactly the difference in costs claimed by Robert Rams between the running costs of the newly opened Arts Depot mini library and the recently closed Friern Barnet library. It seems that the library has had to be shut to pay for Walkleys pay hike.
The real reason that all of these charges have been raised and the librarys have been shut is because the council wants to freeze council tax and pay hefty wages to top executives. They have also hiked many of the allowances for councillors.
The Barnet Bloggers suggested that senior executives on over £100,000 per year (apparently there were 47 of them last year) and Barnet Councillors take a pay cut. Strangely enough this council, which claims a commitment to driving down costs, hasn't even replied to these suggestions. Why could that be?