Paying to park outside your home

De Facto
Paying to park outside your home

Liamy MacNally

The recent spell of nice weather has raised the testosterone levels at Westport Town Council.  There is a move afoot to introduce car-parking charges on the streets of Westport and St Mary’s Crescent. 
The proposal is merely a fund-raising exercise to squeeze an already over-burdened populace and separate the citizens from the little bit of cash they have.  The council, as a body, needs to be challenged on this proposal, which cannot be implemented without the express support of the councillors.  This means that the decision is not an executive decision even though the proposal might have emanated from the council executive.  Councillors have the final say on the proposal because byelaws are required for the plan to be implemented.      
The plan is flawed, firstly, because it is being used simply to raise finance.  It is not being introduced to enhance the daily lives of the people of the town.  If it served a decent purpose it would be worth discussing but as a money raising exercise, it is an insult to the people of the town.
Secondly, the plan is flawed because we have four town centre car parks, three of them with barriers that have not been working for six months or so.  How much revenue has been lost since these barriers were decommissioned?  It is all too easy to come looking to townspeople to bail out the inefficiency of the Town Council.  Both the executive and councillors should have ensured that these barriers were fixed or replaced.  Councillors also have a duty to make sure that funds are there to ‘run’ the town.  They are the people who strike a rate for the town and agree the town council expenditure with their adoption of the Annual Estimates.  This whole proposal stinks.
While certain arguments can be made for on-street parking charges they lose all merit in the face of the inaction in the town’s car parks since the barriers were removed.  The failure to fix the barriers cannot be offset by introducing car-parking charges all over the town. 
And whoever had the bright idea to introduce charges in St Mary’s Crescent?  Westport Town Council has a chequered history with the residents of St Mary’s Crescent.  It all stems from the hubris displayed by the council over the years, none more so than when the council wanted to erect a bridge from St Mary’s Crescent across to the so-called Town Park (where the Leisure Park is now.)  It got to the stage that the council was intent on erecting this bridge, regardless of what the residents thought.  It was then brought to the attention of the council that if the bridge was erected it would be dismantled and left in a tidy pile outside the council offices.  The council was also informed that if the bridge was re-erected the same thing would happen and would continue to occur until the council listened to what the residents wanted.  Residents did not want a bridge.  In the end, the bridge was not erected. 
Fast forward to today.  St Mary’s Crescent is a mature residential estate, built in 1958.  The last thing people need is permission to park outside their own doors by having to pay for a ticket or a residents permit.  There appears to be an unwillingness on the part of some people in the council to respect the rights of residents.  Why should the spaces outside the residents’ homes be designated car-parking charge areas?  The council erected signs years ago stating that parking was for residents only.  Of course the signs were not worth a toss because there was no byelaw to back them up.  And the area was seldom ‘policed’ by council staff.
There are some councillors who claim that you have to introduce car-parking charges to enact a law that would allow residents to have permits for free parking.  Yeah!  We all came down in the last shower!  It would be more in the council’s line to deal with the state-of-the-art money-making machine they have in the Fairgreen car park, namely the Super Loo!  The only problem is that the money is being made by the loo supplier, to the tune of more than €30,000 per annum!  The council has already spent too many pennies on that loo! 
Residents in St Mary’s Crescent are mainly elderly.  They do not need aggro at this stage of their lives.  Designating a residential area like St Mary’s Crescent for car-parking charges is a council move too far.  We have experienced enough of the political stiff-necks over the past few years from a Government that was out of control.  We do not need replicas on a local scale.  We need leadership and citizen support from councillors. It is high time to cold shower this proposal.