Saturday, 3 August 2013
Even for the silly season a fifteen minute ‘grace period’ for parking on the high street is a barmy idea.
The politicians have skipped town until the party conferences get under way and so the silly season is upon us again. This year the honour of getting things started fell to Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, his contribution didn’t disappoint.
On Monday he announced to a breathless world that the government were considering giving motorists a fifteen minute ‘grace period’ so they can park on double yellow lines without fear of getting a ticket in order to nip into the paper shop say. This is all a cunning wheeze to revive Britain’s flagging high streets, it won’t work of course, but on the upside at least it doesn’t involve irritating ‘retail guru’ Mary Portas.
A source close to Mr Pickles, not all that close you’d imagine since he’s a portly chap, told the Daily Telegraph that if people are ‘worries about paying a fortune in parking fines it will make them more likely to shop online or go to out of town shopping centres’ and added that ‘for too long parking has been seen as a revenue raiser. It is time to end that.
Hurray for brave Mr Pickles the heroic slayer of traffic wardens; oh no, hang on a minute here comes nasty transport minister Norman Baker to rain on the parade. He and his Liberal Democrat colleagues think the plan is ‘unworkable’ and even if that isn’t the case it is wrong for central government to interfere with the parking policies of local councils; so there.
The Local Government Association (LGA) and the AA aren’t too pleased either. Peter Box, LGA economy and transport lead, told the BBC that relaxing parking restrictions risked ‘jeopardising the safety of pedestrians’ and the AA slammed the plan as showing ‘confused thinking on the part of the government and called for a review of where double yellow lines are sited instead of some minor fiddling with restrictions.
To which all I can say is ‘calm down dears’ this is just a throwaway press release not a serious policy proposal, it will probably have a lifespan shorter than that of a soap bubble. Councils that impose parking regulations with a Taliban style literalism are an easy Aunt Sally for politicians to biff; doing so though will do little or nothing to save the nation’s high streets from decline.
Doing that requires tackling problems such as the short sighted greed of councils and landlords who drive businesses away by charging extortionate levels rent and business taxes. There is also the small matter of local and national and national government suffering from a total lack of ambition when it comes to public transport, a bus service that was reliable, affordable and a pleasure to use would entice people out of their cars and back into town.
Unfortunately that requires a level of cooperation and joined up thinking of which our current crop of politicians are seemingly incapable. Instead they prefer to engage in the politics of the lowest common denominator, finding an issue they can use to generate a few cheap headlines then moving on without providing a workable solution to the problem they have identified.
Vicky Pryce the former wife of disgraced ex minister Chris Huhne is to have her CBE taken away because she is deemed to have brought the honour into disrepute. Her former partner in crime is having a tough time of it too, the reports are unconfirmed but apparently the fellows cut him quite dead at the last meeting of the Desperate Dan Pie Eaters Club (Westminster Branch).
That rumbling sound you can hear far in the distance is the hypocrisy mill going into overdrive. As I predicted the Westminster establishment hasn’t turned against this hapless pair because of what they did so much as because they got caught doing it.
The House of Lords is stuffed to the rafters with peers who fiddled their expenses, some of whom also went to jail, this hasn’t prevented them from retaining their membership of the most exclusive club in the land. Fred the Shred may have had his snatched back but less high profile city fraudsters have been allowed to keep their knighthoods.
If you scratch the right backs doing wrong, even doing time behind bars as a result, need be no hindrance to riding the gravy train. Clearly Pryce and Huhne were as inept at this as they were at breaking the law.
On the subject of the ‘other place’ thirty new life peers were created this week, a few, such as Doreen Lawrence, will bring new voices and perspectives to public life; most though are just political hacks collecting their payoff for a lifetime of not rocking the boat.
The Lords is now too large to do its job properly and too unrepresentative to hold the confidence of the public; it is an institution ripe for reform. Real reform too, not just dumping the last few hereditary peers, the sort that would involve electing its members by PR and making sure they were properly representative of the diverse communities making up modern Britain.
What a shame this has been put on the back burner for a generation or more thanks to the bungling antics of Deputy PM Nick Clegg.
And finally, the Hubble Space Telescope has shown us this week stunning pictures of galaxy NGC524, known as ‘the spiral of doom’ to its friends and family.
This stunning wheel of gas located some ninety million miles from Earth is entering, so the boffins say, the intermediate stage of its existence, most of its fuel having been expended. However beautiful the result looks from afar its best days are behind it and soon all that will remain will be a few red stars glimmering faintly in an inky void.
Am I the only one who thinks that sounds a bit like the Labour Party under the command of not so Red Ed?