Tag Archives: Lis Burnett

Barking on Parking

I’ve locked horns with two of our Penarth councillors on a number of occasions in relation to their obsession with increasing the tax burden on residents for no good purpose. That’s how I put it anyway – they might class it as “Reintroduce traffic wardens to deal with parking problems in Penarth” and “Fight against car parking charges for Penarth town centre”.

Back in April 2012 this was my take on the issue:

To me it makes perfect sense for the Vale to be raising revenue from people who can afford to drive into town. We know that 21.5% of Vale households have no access to a car or van, and we also know that poor households are disproportionately represented within this sector. Why poorer people should be effectively subsidising richer peoples’ use of cars is beyond me – this seems to be a fabulous example of a regressive ‘tax’ regime. It seems that Gwyn and Lis are siding with the people who are best able to kick up a stink about things that disadvantage them – the thrusting middle class – rather than those who are less able to voice their concerns – older people or people just about scraping a living who haven’t got the time or inclination to trouble politicians.

And 10 days later I said:

Could it just be possible that we could do away with both parking problems and traffic wardens by a simple system of parking charges or meters? But don’t just take my word for it, see what Professor Donald Shoup has to say on the subject.

Followed a fortnight later by:

Lis and Gwyn know that I have a much simpler suggestion to deal with the ‘problem of parking in Penarth’ which would actually raise revenue for the council. Hopefully traffic wardens as the solution to parking issues isn’t something they’ll be dogmatic about just because it’s one of their pledges, should they receive the blessing of the electorate next week.

The only argument I’ve ever heard in favour of free parking in Penarth is one voiced by local businesses – that charging for parking would kill their businesses because customers would decide to shop elsewhere. So perhaps Penarth businesspeople might be surprised to find out that in one Bristol suburb, for example, 2/3 of shoppers cycle and walk to shops and just 22% come by car. Businesses typically overestimate by double the proportion of people driving to go shopping.

But there are some deeper societal issues at stake here, aside from the usual arguments about accessibility to shops. ‘Free’ parking has a cost. It wastes money, degrades urban design, increases the area of impervious surface, it makes town centres less hospitable for pedestrians – and who buys from shops if not pedestrians? – and encourages overuse of cars. And then there’s the additional costs associated with driving, for which pursuit free parking is the principal beneficiary – air pollution, traffic congestion, collisions, wasted time and wasted fuel. These are the costs that society pays for not charging for parking in Penarth town centre. Who pays for ‘free’ parking? Everyone.

Now Lis and Gwyn would probably snap my hand off if I told them I had an invention that could help  wean us from our vehicles and make Penarth’s streets less dangerous, congested, and polluted. The funny thing is, it’s not my invention. It’s been around for 80 years or more: the parking meter. And the parking meter hasn’t stood still for 80 years either. Technology has enabled parking meters to change the rates charged in order to facilitate the most efficient take-up of parking (85% occupancy seems to be the ideal). San Francisco has just such a scheme, in which parking charges vary from $0.25 to $6.00 per hour. And as you’d expect, payment can be made by mobile phone, and you can download an App that will not only tell you the going rate but will help find you a vacant slot. Meanwhile Oklahoma City has come up with a novel idea it calls “Pay and Display”, although perhaps the novelty here is that the units are solar powered.

Charging for parking spaces can increase revenue in businesses. It might seem counter-intuitive – after all, people could just as easily vote with their feet – sorry, tyres – and pop over to Barry, Cowbridge or Cardiff to do their shopping, where they can find plenty of free parking. But over the pond in Seattle, restaurants’ takings and profits both increased when car parking charges were extended from 6pm to 8pm. This finding is hardly surprising if you look at the history of parking meters. When they were first installed, in Oklahoma City, shops fronting parking meters reported increased sales, and streets without them begged the city authorities to install them.

And the rationale? When you charge people to park cars in busy areas, you get a higher turn-over of vehicles, meaning more potential customers. And in quieter areas, lower parking rates can attract additional patronage. The idea is that parking spaces in the town centre should be used by people doing business there, going shopping and eating in local cafes and restaurants, not by workers or other long-term parkers. Short-term parkers are less sensitive to the price of parking than to the length of time it takes for them to find a space.

I don’t know one person who doesn’t think that parking in Penarth is a problem, especially at busy times. But it’s not a problem of lack of spaces, it’s a problem of insufficient turnover. Turnover that can be improved by charging for parking. It’s well worth checking out the experience of Old Pasadena in the USA to see the difference that can be made to civic space by charging for parking. Clearly there are three areas of Penarth that would benefit from a car park charging arrangement: Penarth Station car park, the pier, and the town centre (Glebe Street, Windsor Road and Ludlow Street past the Royal Mail depot).

Finally, I can’t be the only one to have noticed Sustrans Cymru’s moving campaign “Where have all the children gone?“. Their excellent 4-minute video is most definitely worth watching. In a Penarth whose streets are absolutely dominated by cars and traffic, I challenge any of you to not regret the passing of the possibility of playing in the street.

So it’s time for Gwyn and Lis to recognise that there’s no such thing as free parking. Parking without incurring a charge has a cost to all of us. Society pays it, and people driving their cars are free-riders on the backs of the rest of us. If our local councillors are truly concerned about social justice and equality, they’ll run the traffic warden scheme for a year as a pilot that enables them to tick the manifesto box and then get Vale officials to examine the case for parking charges in town. And I haven’t even mentioned that parking meters actually generate revenue for the council, revenue that could be put towards, for example, installing free wi-fi throughout Penarth town centre, making it the first fully wifi-capable town in Wales. Or towards making sure that the street furniture is spick and span, the streets litter free always and the paving of the highest quality. The trick is to spend the money where it’s generated. And let’s bear in mind that everyone would benefit from these public improvement measures, so there’s a good chance the electorate might smile on it too.

I look forward Gwyn and Lis’ Damascene conversion.

2 Sylw

Filed under Labour, Transport, Vale of Glamorgan Council

Clearing the Air

Like an astral conjunction, three transport-related issues are about to collide in Penarth.

First off, the Vale’s Cabinet is meeting tonight in the Paget Rooms, Penarth, at 6pm. And the hot topic of the evening? A proposal to introduce 20mph speed limit zones in  Sully and Penarth. So credit to Rob Thomas for a decent quality report, which states:

An area-wide 20 mph speed limit could also contribute to delivering wider policy initiatives which the Council is promoting such as improvements to health or greater use of walking and cycling for journeys to schools.  It also has the potential to improve community cohesion and recognise the community function of streets and not just as conduits for traffic.  20 mph zones within Penarth and Llandough could be viewed as a contributing factor in changing peoples travel habits encouraging a move towards more sustainable modes of transport.

But this wouldn’t have come about without getting someone to sponsor it. So well done the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation – Penarth’s very own Lis Burnett – for getting this important issue on the agenda.

I’m no specialist in transport planning, but it turns out that Friends of the Earth has done a bit of work on 20mph zones that makes the case pretty watertight. And that makes me think that we should go the whole hog, and make the entire communities of Penarth and Sully into 20mph zones (like you, I’m wondering why Llandough has been excluded from this report).

The second issue is one that really made me sit up. Because if you delve deep in the Byzantine mysteries that are the Vale’s pollution webpages you’ll discover that the Vale council is undertaking a consultation into declaring an Air Quality Management Area in Penarth.

I don’t want to blow my own trumpet unnecessarily, but I can’t  help thinking that my having raised this issue time and time and time again may have helped focus the minds of the monkeys at the top of the decision-making tree. After all, sequential Vale administrations since at least 2006 (and probably a lot further back) have been quite content to see the residents of Cogan poisoned.

But better late than never, the council has finally swung into action. So for those of us who would like to see the Vale comply with their legal obligations it might be an idea to pop down Cogan leisure centre next Thursday 31 January or Thursday 7 February to remind them of the Ambient Air Quality Directive, and to suggest some ways that air quality might be improved in Cogan.

Top of that list might be for Penarth to become one large 20mph zone. But a close second would be making sure that there is good provision of cycle and walking infrastructure. And that’s where the third item of interest comes in. Because I’m hearing whispers that hundreds of thousands of pounds of lottery funding is about to disappear in a puff of smoke on 4 April due to Vale incompetence and Crest Nicholson’s obfuscation.

I don’t know what the meat of the disagreement is. But the lottery money, already allocated for cycle and walking routes through Penarth Heights, will be reclaimed if it’s not spent in the current financial year.

After giving a whiff of praise to the current Labour administration for opening up discussions on making Penarth a 20mph community and for finally getting to grips with their legal obligations on air pollution in Cogan, surely they wouldn’t want to be responsible for saying ‘hwyl fawr’ to a few hundred thousand pounds of free cash?

Or for making their ability to reduce air pollution in Cogan that bit harder.

Rho sylw

Filed under Cogan, Labour, Pollution, Vale of Glamorgan Council

Labour Fails to Deliver?

A flurry of activity surrounded the recent publishing of this article in Penarth News. I think it’s something of a non-story. Politicians make all sorts of pledges in the run-up to elections; the time to judge their success or otherwise is in the run-up to the following election. Incidentally, that of course is the prime time for making political capital of incumbents’ failings. And although there may be no plans in the future to introduce council tax discounts for  residents over 70 years of age, there’s still four years to go for Lis Burnett and Gwyn Roberts to persuade their fellow councillors of the plan’s merit.

But Penarth News has provided a reminder that we might want to keep track of our councillors’ promises from time to time, and perhaps give them a scoresheet of sorts. So let’s return to the only election promises I received from candidates fortunate enough to be elected in last May’s election, a set of 12 pledges from (now) councillors Lis Burnett and Gwyn Roberts:

We’ll be seeing  1: traffic wardens roaming the streets of Penarth, 2: a war on potholes (I’m sensing a theme in electoral messaging), 3: investment in youth services, 4: a youth mayor and youth cabinet, 5: delivery of Penarth Pier project (whatever that is – I’m much more interested in delivery of the Penarth Pavilionproject), 6: St. Paul’s community centre, 7: more dog wardens, and 8: a learning community at St. Cyres. Phew! There’s also the intriguing 9: “Introduce dedicated Grime Fighters for Penarth”. Now I can’t begin to guess what a Grime Fighter is, but if Penarth is going to get some, I’m jolly glad we’re getting the dedicated variety – I wouldn’t want us getting sub-standard non-commital Grime Fighters. There’s a bung to the blue rinse brigade, with 10: reduced council tax for the over-70s, and although there’s no detail on which services will be cut to pay for this, there’s a clue in the pledge that indicates that 11: the social services budget will be brought ‘under control’ (read ‘cut’). I’d wager that the over-70s are some of the heavier users of the social services, so is this a case of giving with one hand and taking away with the other? Or worse still, taking from the most needy in the Vale?

Finally, Gwyn and Lis will 12: fight against car parking charges for the town centre. To me it makes perfect sense for the Vale to be raising revenue from people who can afford to drive into town. We know that 21.5% of Vale households have no access to a car or van, and we also know that poor households are disproportionately represented within this sector. Why poorer people should be effectively subsidising richer peoples’ use of cars is beyond me – this seems to be a fabulous example of a regressive ‘tax’ regime. It seems that Gwyn and Lis are siding with the people who are best able to kick up a stink about things that disadvantage them – the thrusting middle class – rather than those who are less able to voice their concerns – older people or people just about scraping a living who haven’t got the time or inclination to trouble politicians.

The more eagle-eyed amongst you may sense that Penarth a’r Byd hosts some opposition to at least one of those pledges. In my mind – and that of Professor Donald Shoup – paying for parking is a wholly logical and sensible thing to be doing.

But most of the rest of them will simply mean re-jigging expenditure within the  council, and it shouldn’t be beyond the wit of competent councillors to be able to achieve many of these pledges with a year to go before the next elections in 2017. Ooh, what a cynic!

But the killer pledge is the one that Penarth News highlighted and for which I asked the question “which services will be cut to pay for this”? back in April 2012. Come April 2017 I’d be very surprised if Lis and Gwyn can go to the electorate claiming a clean sweep of pledges.

2 Sylw

Filed under Democracy, Labour, Vale of Glamorgan Council

An Irresistible Offer

I’m eternally grateful to the army of readers who furnish me with scanned copies of electoral material. But do I get every pamphlet sent through?

At the local authority elections in May I didn’t get any contributions from Sully, Plymouth or Stanwell wards. Did the candidates not produce any literature, or did I simply not get hold of what they produced? I’m still none the wiser – but it wasn’t great for democracy because readers of the blog living in those wards had no independent analysis of the election missives.

There’s another problem with relying exclusively on blog readers: often the quality of scanning just doesn’t capture the quality of the original publication.

At the local authority elections in May, Lis Burnett from Labour and Luke James and Osian Lewis from Plaid took the trouble to send me their electoral briefings either by pdf or as links to an online version.

So I’d like to extend that practice for the Penarth and Cardiff South by-election with an irresistible offer.

On sequential days running up to the by-election I will publish an election message from each candidate in the election. The election address should be no more than 500 words, and I will publish it unedited (provided it doesn’t include defamation, incitement to violence etc.). The order of publication will be in the same order as the ballot papers, so based on nominated candidates, this would be the running order:

  • Stephen Doughty (Labour)
  • Robert Griffiths (Communist)
  • Andrew Jordan (Socialist Labour)
  • Bablin Molik (Lib Dem)
  • Luke Nicholas (Plaid)
  • Craig Williams (Conservative)

For information, I will not publish an election address from the BNP should they manage to dredge up a candidate from somewhere.

The quid pro quo? You need to send me copies of your electoral material no later than 5 days after it arrives through people’s letter boxes. Electronic copies only, please, either as pdfs (penartharbyd[a]gmail.com) or as links to permanent copies online. Failure to send them through will automatically disqualify you from this irresistible offer. Those candidates who provide no electoral information are still eligible for the election address.

So why should you bother? Well, this blog received 237 hits on 4 May, so there’s a fairly active readership out there. I’d expect this to have increased come election day as the reach of the blog has extended over time.

And let’s be frank. If you opt out, you’re sending a clear message to the electorate that you don’t want your election material to be subject to independent scrutiny.

That doesn’t go down well with me, and I don’t think it will with them.

22 Sylw

Filed under Communist Party, Conservatives, Democracy, Elections, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, Socialist Labour Party, Westminster

Cabinet 2012

I thought I’d interrupt my results analysis to bring you news on the Vale of Glamorgan Cabinet. Don’t worry, it hasn’t taken them this long to get around to it, it’s taken me this long to get around to it!

  • Cllr. Neil Moore (Labour, Cadoc) is the Council Leader. He’s in charge of policy, corporate governance and public protection. Here’s the full list of his responsibilities (and those of his Cabinet colleagues).
  • Cllr. Stuart Egan (Labour, Buttrills) is the Deputy Leader. His responsibilities include adult health and social care.
  • Cllr. Bronwen Brooks (Labour, Court) has responsibility for housing and community safety.
  • Cllr. Lis Burnett (Labour, St. Augustine’s) takes on economic development, planning and transport.
  • Cllr. Rob Curtis (Labour, Gibbonsdown) has the environment portfolio.
  • Cllr. Chris Elmore (Labour, Castleland) takes the lead on schools and child health and social care.
  • Cllr. Gwyn John (Independent, Llantwit Major) looks after parks and leisure.

It won’t have escaped your notice that one of the Penarth councillors has been rewarded with a seat at the top table. Congratulations Lis Burnett! Let’s hope that Lis’ promotion doesn’t mean that she adopts an approach to her ward that previous Cabinet Members seem to have done through neglecting the electorate.

There are two things that immediately strike me about our Cabinet. Firstly, all the Cabinet Members are from urban wards: five from Barry and one each from Penarth and Llantwit Major (although Llantwit Major is nominally a rural ward, it’s fair to say that the majority of the population is in the town itself). That of course reflects the political make-up – the Conservatives have monopolised the rural wards in the Vale for some time. But it’ll be important for the Cabinet to keep an eye on rural goings-on too.

The second point is that there are only two women on the list. That presumably partly reflects the lack of women councillors generally – only 14 out of 47. But let’s look at this in a little more detail. Labour provides an astonishing 11 of the 14 female councillors in the Vale. Astonishing, because it also provides 11 of the male councillors and is therefore the only party that provides gender parity. One up for Neil Moore (equalities portfolio). But Labour is the only party that comes anywhere near gender parity. Are the other parties really that bereft of decent female candidates? Or are they somehow alienating 50% or so of the population from their politics? That doesn’t sound like good political strategy to me. Back to Cabinet – given that this is a coalition Cabinet and one seat had to go to the Independents (all male), I’ll suggest that half of the Labour seats should be occupied by women. So while it’s a thumbs-up to Labour for the councillor gender parity, they need to work a bit to get it right where the decisions are made.

I’ll be sending some of the relevant blog posts through to our new Cabinet over the coming weeks, and I’ll let you know what they say in response. And on that note, I’ve finally had a response from the Welsh Government about our Cogan problem. But I’ll save that for a later date.

4 Sylw

Filed under Elections, Vale of Glamorgan Council

St. Augustine’s 2012

So this is the ward where my predictions started to falter. I got 1/2 for St. Augustine’s with Lis Burnett turning up trumps for Labour. So congratulations to Lis, and to her party colleague Gwyn Roberts for proving me wrong.

Here are the results for all to see. We’re starting to get a picture of trends throughout Penarth and Sully, although I’ll wait until I’ve analysed them all before commenting on the overall picture.

The Conservative vote in St. Augustine’s fell by 29%, mirroring the reduction in Plymouth ward. At the same time,  the Labour vote increased by 20%, which was a bigger surge than in Cornerswell where the seats also changed hands to Labour. Plaid had a disastrous result, down 43% on 2008. One way of looking at this would conceivably be to argue that the Green candidate’s 280 votes, if added to the Plaid candidates, would have meant a relatively even keel. But look at what happened to the Plaid vote in Plymouth and you’ll see that it’s entirely consistent with the St. Augustine’s result. This gives me cause to think my judgement was correct in the previous posts where only one candidate had previously stood. This, plus the consistency in results across wards for Conservative and Labour, also indicates that although 261 fewer votes were cast in 2012 than in 2008, the Green votes were additional to those cast for other parties and didn’t subtract from the other parties’ popularity.

Cornerswell and St. Augustine’s are going to be merged with Llandough to form the super-ward of Penarth North in the next elections in 2017. I’ll be analysing the chances of the various candidates and parties closer to the time.

Turnout in St. Augustine’s was 38%, in the middle of the range of the five Penarth/Sully seats.

So Labour’s duo of Lis Burnett and Gwyn Roberts received the support of 47% and 42% respectively. The margin in favour of support for Lis was quite substantial, and echoes the result in Cornerswell where the female Labour candidate came well ahead of the male. Is there something in this? Are the female candidates pulling in more voters? Do they both just happen to be stronger candidates or were they better at campaigning? Or is it simply the alphabet effect?!

Certainly the male Conservative candidate did better than the female one, with Paul Church getting the backing of 33% of voters. But the margin was wafer-thin – just 7 votes in it – so Sophie Williams also got support from 33%. This is the crux of my failure to predict St. Augustine’s. Firstly I didn’t foresee the scale of the Labour swing that propelled Gwyn into second spot. But I was also persuaded that Sophie’s local activity would have been enough to push her ahead of Paul in the pecking order. Evidently having been around town for a long time is more of a factor – at least between candidates from the same party – than I’d expected. I’m a little surprised. Of all the sitting councillors, Sophie seemed to be the most active locally. Of course, there’s a large element of communication in there – some incumbents might have been doing an awful lot but just not publicising it. But it shows that I was persuaded by the communication to the effect that I placed her above Paul in my prediction.

And there’s a second aspect. Like many people in Penarth, I get a growing proportion of my information online. My respect for the Penarth Times has eroded as time has gone by because it seems to be little more than a vehicle for printing press releases. I’m convinced that in five years’ time the councillors without an online presence will be in a minority, and those that haven’t will suffer electorally as a result. So perhaps Sophie was ahead of the online game but paid the price of an audience that was just too small in May 2012. Time will tell.

Anthony Slaughter was supported by 15% of voters. That sounds like a creditable result, particularly when put in the context of what the Greens will need in 2016’s National Assembly elections to get representation in South Wales Central. As ever, the trick will be in convincing the electorate that a Green vote ‘isn’t a wasted vote’. For my part, there’s no such thing as a wasted vote – except a vote that hasn’t been cast. And we’ll come to that in a minute.

Niclas ap Glyn got the backing of 12% of voters while his Plaid counterpart David Wilton persuaded 10% to support him. Plaid’s showing in Penarth – Cornerswell aside – seems to have been pretty dire.

So let’s see how many non-voters there were. Subtracting the magic 10% from an electorate of 4,906 gives us 4,415 potential voters. Subtracting the 1,871 who voted leaves 2,544. So once again, our independent candidate needs to persuade just 35% of the non-voting public in St. Augustine’s to leap to the top of the list. When you think about it in these terms, it’s these non-voters who are the holy grail. Why do people bother trying to convince people who are already voting to vote for a different party when the massive gains can clearly be made with the refuseniks? Of course, I’m joking. I imagine the effort expended on trying to persuade someone to vote in a local election at all must be substantial, let alone getting them to vote for a particular candidate or party. But there may just be a lesson for us all in Sully, which we’ll be investigating in a few posts’ time.

4 Sylw

Filed under Conservatives, Democracy, Elections, Greens, Labour, Plaid Cymru, Vale of Glamorgan Council

The Count

No, not this one.

Cornerswell

  • Rhiannon Birch – Labour – 796 – ELECTED
  • Peter King – Labour – 698 – ELECTED
  • John Fraser – Conservative – 376
  • Dorothy Turner – Conservative – 350
  • Luke James – Plaid – 308
  • Osian Lewis – Plaid – 282
  • Damian Chick – Lib Dem – 64

Plymouth

  • Maureen Kelly Owen – Conservative – 939 – ELECTED
  • Clive Williams – Conservative – 939 – ELECTED
  • Tracey Alexander – Labour – 598
  • Philip Rapier – Labour – 547
  • Sandra Clubb – Plaid – 202
  • Marc Jones – Plaid – 202
  • David Ellis – Lib Dem – 153

St. Augustine’s

  • Lis Burnett – Labour – 887 – ELECTED
  • Gwyn Roberts – Labour – 781 – ELECTED
  • Paul Church – Conservative – 622
  • Sophie Williams – Conservative – 615
  • Anthony Slaughter – Green – 280
  • Niclas ap Glyn – Plaid – 217
  • David Wilton – Plaid – 193
Stanwell
  • Janice Birch – Labour – 666 – ELECTED
  • Mark Wilson – Labour – 651 – ELECTED
  • Ken Lloyd – Conservative – 309
  • Christopher Williams – Conservative – 294
  • Adrian Roper – Plaid – 152
Sully
  • Bob Penrose – Independent – 876 – ELECTED
  • Kevin Mahoney – UKIP – 633 – ELECTED
  • Sarah Sharpe – Conservative – 464
  • Anthony Ernest – Conservative – 342
  • Paula Hardy – Labour – 330
  • Carolyn Mirza-Davies – Plaid – 148

Total roll-call of councillors:

Labour – 6

Conservative – 2

Independent – 1

UKIP – 1

 

also

Llandough

  • Kate Edmunds – Labour – 374 – ELECTED
  • Ben Gray – Conservative – 178
  • Steven Thomas – Plaid – 74

7 Sylw

Filed under Democracy, Elections, Vale of Glamorgan Council