First Person - with Allan Crow

Allan Crow, Fife Free Press
Allan Crow, Fife Free Press

IT’S a brave councillor who fronts a brand new parking charge - so take a bow, Pat Callaghan, executive spokesman for transport and the enviroment at Fife Council.

His announcement hit the media out of the blue last Thursday, just after every Fife newspaper had gone to print.

Good news management? Perish the thought! It was, of course, merely timed to appear ahead of Tuesday’s committee meeting - anything else would just be a cynical old journalist thinking the worst, as usual.

Cllr Callaghan talked about ‘‘introducing a small charge’’ to deter people who use the car parks and then skive into town.

Small? Fifty pence is small. A quid is small,

But £1.60 to £2.40 per day - the equivalent of a take-away lunch - is that really small?

Top whack, that’s £12 per week or an extra 50 bucks per month on top of season tickets for rail travel which recently announced hefty price hikes of its own.

Is he seriously suggesting people can afford to simply shell out another £50 per month? I couldn’t - could he? Would he?

Soothing PR spin

Even allowing for six weeks holiday a year - and that’s generous given we work longer hours than anywhere else in Europe - and excluding any additional weekend travel that’s an annual extra cost to commuters of at least £550. The cost of a week’s holiday abroad.

Still say that’s ‘‘a small charge’’ councillor?

The Council’s soothing PR spin about ‘‘a measure to help manage parking spaces’’ should be seen for what it is - utter nonsense.

This is about money or ‘identifying new revenue streams’ if you want the Cooncil jargon.

Officers have looked around and thought ‘‘hhmm, what can we charge for? Oh look! There’s a big shiny car park with no meters. Let’s knock up some tarrifs and send in the wardens...’’

Absolutely no-one denies the Council faces major challenges to fund key services and it is absolutely right that it looks at all options - even ‘thinking the unthinkable’ - but this is textbook ‘‘how not to do it.’’

The parking charges will, in the words of Cllr Callaghan ‘‘create a small revenue stream’’

That word again - small.

Let’s get out the calculators and mutliply the number of spaces times the daily charge. Good lord! It runs into six and then seven figures over several years. A couple of million may be small in overall budgetary terms for the Council but it was just dumb to play down the income.

Detailed analysis

The devil is always in the detail, and councillors should know better than to go for a broad brush approach - they will simply be asked questions. Lots of them. We aked ‘em:

What statisical data does transportation have over the number of commuters unable to get parking spaces at each station?

What research have they done?

Who have they consulted?

When did they consult?

What pledges will they give that money generated in Kirkcaldy will then be spent in Kirkcaldy - dare I suggest they could use the dosh to fix the mess they made of the Adam Smith roundabout? (another transportation project no-one asked for, wanted or then approved of).

Other than handing the SNP a gift, I’m not entirely sure what the purpose of Thursday’s woolly announcement was other than to test the waters and then mount a hasty retreat if the natives got restless. Funnily enough, by Sunday the issue was punted into the 2014-15 budgets with pledges to consult the world and his granny .. is it just me or shouldn’t that have been done before the paper came to the table in the first place?