To consider and respond to the Call-In in accordance with the procedure set out in the Council’s constitution.
The Chair of the Scrutiny & Overview Committee, Councillor Sean Fitzsimons introduced the Call-In item, outlining the key decisions that were to be reviewed at the meeting and highlighting that there had been a separate key decision relating to emissions-based parking charges published on 18 December, which the Committee may also wish to consider submitting a separate call-in, to provide additional scrutiny of those particular decisions.
The Chair explained the process for considering a call-in confirming that the Committee needed to agree whether to review the decision and if it decided to proceed, confirm how much time it wished to allocate to discussing the item. The Committee agreed that it would review the decision and allocated one hour to the consideration of the item.
The Chair went on to explain that there were three outcomes that the Committee could reach as a result of the review. These were:-
1. That no further action was necessary and the decision could be implemented as originally intended.
2. To refer the decision back to the decision maker for reconsideration, outlining the nature of the Committee’s concerns
3. To refer the decision to Council, if the Committee considered that the decision taken was outside of the Budget and Policy Framework.
Councillor Gareth Streeter as one of the signatories of the call-in was given the opportunity to explain the reasons for calling in the Parking Charge Review January 2021 and to highlight to the Committee areas they may wish to consider. It was noted that the reasons for making the call-in included the need to gain reassurance that parking charges were not being used as a means to increase revenue, to gain reassurance that the potential impact on local businesses had been understood and also to ensure that there was an opportunity to publically debate the proposed new charges, with concern expressed that the size of the increase was not in keeping with previous increases.
The Cabinet Member for Sustainable Croydon, Councillor Muhammad Ali, along with council officers, was in attendance at the meeting to address the call-in and answer any questions arising.
Prior to answering questions from the Committee, Councillor Ali was provided with the opportunity to give a response to the call-in. It was outlined that climate change and air quality were key policy drivers at both a local and national level. The proposed increases had been developed alongside emission-based parking charges, as a mechanism for encouraging people to use more sustainable modes of transport and lower car usage. As the proposals had been in development since early 2020 and prior to the Section 114 Notice being issued, the Council’s financial position had not be a consideration in the development of these proposals.
Following the response by the Cabinet Member, the Committee was given the opportunity to question the proposals. The first question asked whether there was any evidence to indicate that increasing parking charges had a direct correlation with lower vehicle usage and how the impact from the new charges would be quantified in Croydon. In response it was highlighted that car usage in the borough had increased by 40% over the past 20 years. A study commissioned by the Mayor of London had indicated that 40% of trips within the borough were walkable and it was hoped through increasing parking charges, it would encourage people to use their cars less for these walkable journeys.
Parking charges were usually reviewed every two years and existing evidence demonstrated that a 10p increase to charges had only a minimal impact on usage. Modelling of car parking usage had indicated that a 30p increase would produce a 12% reduction in car usage. It was highlighted that higher parking charges was only one of a range of measures being introduced that would improve cycling and walking access in the borough. Benchmarking against other London boroughs had indicated that the parking charges in Croydon were largely comparable with those in other areas.
In response to a question about the consultation process it was confirmed that the consultation was about the introduction of a new emission-based parking charge scheme, as there was a requirement for local authorities to consult when changing their charging structures. When increasing parking charges the requirement was to publish a public notice of the changes.
It was highlighted that all of the pay and display bays were in areas of high car usage and as such a varied increase across the borough had been ruled out. Furthermore, as the number of parking charge schemes across the borough had been reduced in 2016, following the introduction of the Fair Parking Strategy, it would be counteractive to this decision if new schemes were now introduced. Transport for London had identified Croydon as the borough with the greatest opportunity for increasing active travel, but it was acknowledged that the topography of some parts of the borough, which tended to be fairly hilly, meant that some people would still need to drive.
In response to a request for further information on the timeline for the decision, to give reassurance that the increase was not being introduce to raise revenue, it was advised that initial discussions on the scheme took place in 2018, in response to the Mayor of London’s Transport Strategy. The additional income raised from the increase had originally been included in the budget process for 2020-21, but this had been delayed due to the impact from covid-19.
At the conclusion of this item the Committee discussed how it wished to respond to the call-in request. Overall, it was agreed that the concerns raised by the call-in request had been addressed by the Cabinet Member and officers in attendance and as such the decision could proceed as originally intended. However, it was agreed that the emission-based parking charges key decision would also be called-in by the Committee to allow for a discussion on the content of that report.
Following discussion of this item the Scrutiny & Overview Committee reached the following conclusions:-
1. The Committee was satisfied by the response provided by the Cabinet Member and officers, and agreed that the decision could proceed as originally intended.
2. In particular, the Committee felt the timeline for the decision, which was linked to the Mayor of London’s Transport Strategy, provided reassurance that the parking charge increase had not been created in response to the Council’s financial challenges.
3. It was agreed that the key decision relating to emission-based parking charges would also be called-in by the Committee to allow for a discussion of the detail underpinning that particular decision.