Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Park And Ride: Talking To People Makes A Difference by Cllr Susan van de Ven

There’s no doubt that Cambridgeshire County Council is facing severe financial difficulties and must make difficult decisions. But as the Park and Ride debacle shows, it doesn't pay off to shy away from talking to people ahead of those difficult decisions – if for no other reason than the fact that other people may have useful ideas for problem-solving.

In the case of Park and Ride, the county council’s cabinet held its discussions behind closed doors, talking to no one, and hoped that the bitter pill could be swallowed quickly.

Cllr John Williams and I recently went to talk with Andy Campbell from Stagecoach to ask for his perspective on a number of transport issues including Park and Ride. He suggested that Stagecoach could run the Park and Ride sites far more cheaply than at present – currently the council spends £1 million per year running the sites. We asked about the tightened grip of monopoly that Stagecoach would hold on Park and Ride, and the importance of opening up the sites to as many transport operators as possible in order to help persuade people to leave their cars outside of the city. The answer was simply, ‘Why not? Write such things into the contract.’

This morning the council’s Cabinet meeting revisited the Park and Ride matter because its original decision had been ‘called-in’ for scrutiny – one of the tools of accountability of our democratic system. An early morning radio discussion on Park and Ride had got the ideas flowing, including the Stagecoach offer to run the sites. The Cabinet member responsible proposed to hang fire on the charging proposals, pending a discussion with Stagecoach on running the sites more cheaply.

This is very encouraging, and well done to the Cabinet for being open to an alternative solution. Fingers crossed that it yields a good result for local residents.

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This article is available here, via Cllr van de Ven's website and blog