* Councillors often vary their speeches as a result of the debate, and Cllr Bond wishes to point out that this blog may not represent exactly what he said. It does, however, represent his views.
We have neighbourhoods of Victorian & Edwardian housing built before the motor car with minimal off‑street parking, only a short hop from a town centre. Without residents’ parking permits, they become overspill town centre parking and residents feel they have very little choice about paying. If the definition of a charge is paying for a service you choose to receive and a tax something you cannot easily avoid, to those on the receiving end it is simply a new cost for parking in the road they live in. And it will most impact modest family homes with no off-street parking.
Only a couple of months’ ago there were discussions with residents in my ward about parking but no mention of possible regular charges. People have opted for a parking scheme on the understanding there was no charge, and now find there is one. The permits will be £120 for a two car household, £50 for just one car, with no variation for the number of hours the restriction applies each day, the vehicle’s emissions or the fuel type. If this has to be introduced because of what’s happened in the past with finances, I think this may be a missed opportunity.
Comparisons depend on which towns you choose. Looking at similar nearby towns it is expensive, beside Wokingham which seems to be half the price according to their website, with Bracknell and Slough slightly higher than that.
There is also a charge of £100 for a third and subsequent permit where residents are entitled to more. I’ve heard the concern that the council could give these out because it raises revenue but in the roads I’ve described tensions can already arise because of the volume of parked vehicles so I hope this concern can be allayed. If residents are paying, they will expect effective enforcement.
And if you have a very regular visitor, say someone brings the grandchildren over most days, the new cost of the visitors’ vouchers will soon mount up.
Moving on, it was a pleasure to recently meet someone supported by Ways into Work. I can see why the service is highly valued by them and their family. We must all have experienced the world of work giving meaning and direction to life as well as providing friendships. The service is being transferred to Optalis and I drew comfort from their website showing them second in national rankings (Ways into Work are fourth) and with no waiting list. However, we are expecting the proposal to reduce cost by 69% from nearly £250k to £75k and there is bound to be concern that either it will in some way be a different service — of critical importance for someone benefiting greatly from the service — or the saving will not materialise. I appreciate the actual transition still has to be worked out with Ways into Work.
On the Adult Social Care Transformation Plan, it is leader of the pack of cuts as it is projected to save £1.7m in the second year. It has been good to hear from officers and ask questions at the Oversight & Scrutiny meeting. They certainly come across as being committed to do the best for vulnerable members of the community. But I cannot overlook the ambitious scale of the programme and a major issue with all the budget proposals is whether savings and income targets are reached in the year ahead without letting down those who so clearly need our support. I’m particularly concerned that we need to retain social workers for both children’s and adults’ services, otherwise we end up paying agency rates.