Councillor’s mixed message over parking charges

Kirkcaldy railway station car park
Kirkcaldy railway station car park

UNDER-FIRE Labour councillor Pat Callaghan publicly endorsed plans to introduce charges at railway stations and park and ride facilities – and then insisted it was all the fault of the previous SNP / Lib Dem administration.

He told Tuesday’s executive committee meeting that SNP group leader, Councillor Peter Grant, was being “disingenuous” in his political attacks on Labour over the proposals.

And he claimed campaigners handing out leaflets and protesting at railway stations were also wrong to blame Labour for looking to introduce parking charges.

Just days before the meeting, the executive spokesman on transport stated: “What’s being suggested are measures to help manage the parking spaces we’ve got available and I am supportive of this approach.”

By Tuesday, however, Cllr Callaghan appeared less supportive and wanted to distance himself and his party from the proposals, saying it all stemmed from a decision taken last November under the previous administration at the environment, enterprise and transport committee to introduce car park charges.

But SNP councillors claimed Cllr Callaghan was desperately trying to wriggle out of an embarrassing situation following furious public backlash.

And Cllr Grant questioned the impartiality of Cllr Callaghan, who will have a key role in the consultation process as chairman of the environment and transportation policy advisory group.

Cllr Grant said: “He has already stated he supports this. What chance have other councillors or the wider community got when the chairman has already decided the answer?

“Can it have any credibility when he has already declared his hand?”

The decision taken last November related to changes to the Fife Council Parking Strategy following a report MVA Consultancy which recommended “that consideration be given to future parking charges at station car parks when demand exceeds operational capacity, 85 per cent”.

Cllr Callaghan claimed this proved the SNP wanted to introduce parking charges and officers only brought forward their report in response to this previous decision.

And at Tuesday’s meeting, in a change from his earlier stance, he endorsed the decision for wider consultation on car parking charges.

He said: “This shows that democracy is in action and it’s important that we listen to residents, commuters and our partners and evaluate the outcomes before any decision can be made.”

Cllr Callaghan’s new stance was supported by Labour colleague, Councillor Mark Hood, who said it was time the SNP in Fife started to take responsibility for the decisions it took while leading the Council.

He said: “It’s now clear that officers brought forward a report recommending the introduction of parking charges based on decisions made while the SNP were in power.

“What we have seen from the SNP leadership over the last week is nothing but the lowest of politics, misleading Fifers by telling half-truths and failing to admit the role they had played in the report being presented by officers.”