Politicians, especially local ones, often seem to have had a frontal lobotomy.
Councillors, on the other hand, are perfectly suited to running towns and complex urbanised financial metropolises, having gained many years of valuable experience working in their local communities.
For years we have all been whingeing and moaning about car park charges affecting trade in the local environment, especially in local shopping locations. It isn`t the amount of money that is being charged - although that does hurt; it is the fact that they are charging money at all.
For many glorious years one of our local stores near Manchester had enjoyed free parking within the shopping estate. Everybody enjoyed a reasonable trade, customers were ecstatic with their comfortable shopping phenomenon, and the council-owned car park was always full and spaces were seldom seen six days a week.
Then, one day, some greedy, short-sighted, dim-witted, egotistical, petty-minded public servant decided he could get a revenue stream from car parking and bolster council funds by taxing the driver, and put on an hourly charge of… wait for it… 20p per four hours.
A paltry sum, I hear you cry, but it still cleared the car park within days.
And from then on, the shopping centre nosedived into oblivion. I’m not saying it was derelict, but tumbleweed could be seen wafting through the mall. One by one the big names went, leaving us stalwarts (and long-time lease holders) to ride the storm, which duly hit us fair and square.
For a couple of years we and a local trade colleague battled it out, amongst the chip papers and strewn cans of energy drinks - until a politician thought: “Maybe if we stop charging for parking, people will come back!”
So they removed the charges and, sure enough, customers returned in their droves. Thankfully we and everybody else established in the centre are in business supplying the locals in the area, once again.
However it begs the question as to why this parking charge was introduced in the first place? Just what was going on in the mind of the official who dreamt up the scheme? The councillors gave consent to the planning authority for planning permission, so surely councillors could have realised, at that point, that free parking on retail parks and paid parking in town centres would drive away customers?
At the time of going to press, Bolton has re-introduced free parking at weekends only. Too little, too late, I’m afraid.