David Taylor, the Head of Parking Services, emails to tell me that in the last financial year – 2013/14 Hammersmith and Fulham Council had income from parking of £34, 734, 250. He adds that in this financial year – 2014/15 the income is projected to be £35,755,502. So over a million pounds more.
Labour won control of the Council by claiming to be the motorists friend. At the Council elections in May the message from Labour was that parking charges were a stealth tax. They promised to reduce them.
Their manifesto said:
“Our Conservative council has a record for entrapping innocent motorists – fines for moving traffic offences have increased 18-fold in six years. We will work with resident, motorist and cycling groups to reintroduce fairness on our roads.”
Cllr Stephen Cowan, now the Council leader then the Leader of the Labour opposition , wrote on his blog that such vast sums were obtained through dishonesty:
“The scams used are the type of thing one might expect from the worst type of cowboys.”
Cllr Cowan is now the Cowboy in Chief. When £34.7 million was being raised that was regarded by him as stealth taxation, entrapment, scams. Now the sum has cranked up to £35.7 million. The Bagleys Lane Box Junction operates in same way. No fines or parking charges have been reduced. Residents are faced with the spectacle of the man who complained, more vociferously than anyone else, that £34.7 million was far too high being the same man presiding over an increase to £35.7 million.
I have requested that Visitor Parking Tariff for Zone I (where parking stress is low) be set lower than the current rate of £1.80 an hour. It is unreasonable for those living in Emlyn Road to be paying £1.80 an hour given that if they lived the next street along – in Abinger Road in Ealing – the cost would be 60p an hour. Cllr Cowan has decided to keep it an £1.80.
Good traffic management does require some charges and fines. The concern is that if those charges are excessive that it has become a tax – a means of raising revenue. As we celebrate 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta let us remember that a tax should only be levied with the approval of Parliament.
It’s a great thing about the British constitution that we have the rule of law rather than a bunch of state gangsters – or municipal cowboys – helping themselves to our money whenever they feel like it. The Magna Carta of 1215 said “scrutage” – as tax used to be called – could only be taken having “obtained the common counsel of our Kingdom.” In 1689 the Bill of Rights added:
“That levying money for or to the use of the crown, by pretence of prerogative, without grant of parliament, for longer time, or in other manner than the same is or shall be granted, is illegal.”