Geoffrey Theobald: Free parking would help our community

An empty Regency Square car park
An empty Regency Square car park

Labour and the Greens do not share our sentiment and could perhaps do with a little Christmas cheer.

I was very disappointed that, at the recent full council meeting, the Conservative Group’s proposal to offer free parking at under-used council car parks on Small Business Saturday (December 5) and the three Sundays before Christmas was defeated by Labour and the Greens.

This is despite the Labour Group voting in support of our identical proposals in previous years. The Conservative Group has always championed Small Business Saturday and the benefits of free parking in the Sundays leading up to Christmas which not only helps the community by supporting local businesses but also acts as a gesture to residents and visitors choosing to venture into our city, as opposed to those nearby, to do their Christmas shopping and indeed keep our economy moving.

At the expense of residents and local businesses, it seems Labour and the Greens do not share our sentiment and could perhaps do with a little Christmas cheer.

In the case of Labour, this u-turn would suggest that their previous support was purely opportunist, with last May’s Council election being their main motivation.

Brighton and Hove City Council received some negative publicity last week over its choice of venue for the meeting itself.

The Conservative Group was very disappointed that a decision was taken to use the entirely unsuitable Brighton Centre, instead of Brighton Town Hall, due to concerns about poor disabled access at the latter.

However, I’m pleased to say that, following our pressure, the chief executive has agreed to carry out some relatively minor and inexpensive internal alterations to the Town Hall which will enable more disabled people to attend council meetings.

Unquestionably, it is only right and proper that it should be as easy for disabled residents to interact with the council at formal committee meetings as it is for able bodied people and so I think this is a victory for common sense.

Of course, all this has come to a head because the council chamber at Hove Town Hall is currently out of action as a result of the multi-million pound renovation of Hove Town Hall for new staff accommodation – a decision that the Conservative Group did not support.

In the light of the recent comments from a prominent member of the new Labour administration warning that the council could go bust within two years if reform and modernisation of services does not happen very quickly, I think many residents will be questioning whether this project really represents good value for council taxpayers’ money.

Councillor Geoffrey Theobald is leader of the Conservative Group on Brighton and Hove City Council