An open invitation has been issued to ‘Furious’ traders featured in a local newspaper to watch a recording of the car park debate with the Leader of Epping Forest District Council. Councillor Lesley Wagland has asked the Epping Forest Guardian to forward the invitation to Loughton traders interviewed by the newspaper about council car park charges.
“I want the traders to see and hear what we actually said before reaching their own conclusions,” said Councillor Wagland.
The unusual step has been taken by concerned councillors trying to build support for high streets and local traders. Councillor Wagland said: “We have no intention of putting up car parking charges whatever the headlines might say. I think anyone at the Cabinet Committee meeting would have understood that. We looked at an independently-produced set of suggestions including car parking, solar panels and advertising to see if any were worth pursuing. In the current economic climate, councillors soon made their opposition to raising parking charges crystal clear.
“Councillors do not live in a bubble. Whatever our political parties, we all live and work in our community and care deeply about it. I would like the traders of Loughton and across the district to see that by sitting and watching the actual debate with me. If they remain ‘furious’ afterwards, I will gladly listen to their concerns.”
Finance and Performance Management Cabinet Committee held on Monday 21 November was open to the public and press. It was held three days before the newspaper was published. The meeting was webcast live and uploaded to the council website for subsequent viewing by residents, business people and reporters. The report, funded by the Improvement East Efficiency Challenge Fund (not the Council), contains a detailed financial analysis prepared by Price Waterhouse Coopers looking at ways to save money and increase income – something all councils are doing as they deal with cuts in Central Government funding. The full report is also available online.
Watch the webcast on revenue income optimisation
Epping Forest District Council is currently working closely with the Federation of Small Businesses, Epping Forest Chamber of Commerce and other business organisations to support the local economy. The One Shops Local website is a campaign to encourage local residents to use local shops and services.
6 December 2011
Assistant Editor – Epping Forest Guardian
8 Simon Campion Court
Dear Mr Yeatman,
I was dismayed by the reports in your newspaper that traders in Loughton are furious at council plans for car parking charges. However, rather than argue the details of the proposals as presented in your article and editorial comment on 24 November, I would like to present the full webcast of the meeting to the traders at a personal meeting. Having enjoyed the benefits of reading the full report prepared by Price Waterhouse Coopers and watched the unedited webcast of the debate, I will then offer each trader the opportunity to explain their concerns personally to me.
I would therefore be grateful if you would forward the invitation as set out below without delay:
Suvhash Shah – Tony’s Hardware, The Broadway, Loughton
Neil Tohen – Tuscany Restaurant – High Road, Loughton (NB I understand this may actually be Mr Cohen)
Nataleah Brandy – Hob Hairdressers – High Road, Loughton
Nigel Skinner – (Former Taxi Service Operator) – Waltham Abbey
Becky Elliott – Loughton High Road
Jo Alexandrou – Loughton High Road
Amy Leggett – Loughton High Road
Dear Loughton Traders,
I was dismayed to read the impression attributed to yourselves in the Epping Forest Guardian (24 November) of Epping Forest District Council’s apparent interest in increasing Pay and Display Council Car Park Charges. ‘Fury’ is a powerful emotion. Given the somewhat different impression of the Council’s position shared between myself and other councillors, I believe a misunderstanding may have arisen.
Epping Forest District Council in common with other councils is looking at ways to reduce costs and increase income to balance the cuts in public sector funding announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. An opportunity to examine some possibilities arose thanks to funding from the Improvement East Efficiency Challenge Fund. Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) was engaged to give us a dispassionate view. Epping Forest District Council is already well-managed financially. PWC looked at a range of options but eventually agreed that only three were potentially viable – increased car parking charges, advertising sales and solar panels.
It was not for PWC to take a political decision regarding the viability of each proposal. That was a matter for councillors elected to represent the interests of the community. That is what we did, recommending the dismissal of the notion to increase charges three days before the publication of the newspaper.
I am a passionate advocate of the local business community. I want to see a thriving local economy with busy high streets and high quality services provided at affordable prices to our residents. I believe in competition but I also believe the Council has a key role to play in providing the right environment in which the local economy can flourish.
However, I understand that in these cynical times, it can be hard to take the words of a politician at face value. I therefore want to offer you the opportunity to study the evidence for yourselves. I would like to invite you to meet with me at the Civic Offices in Epping. I would like to provide you with copies of all the reports and I would like to watch a recording of the full debate held at Finance and Performance Management Cabinet Committee with you. Having watched the unedited debate, I then want to give you the opportunity to tell me if you are still furious as reported and discuss what you would do in my place, had you been elected Leader of Epping Forest District Council.
Since your views were reported in the pages of the local newspaper and in fairness to the Epping Forest Guardian, I am issuing this invitation via the assistant editor, Dominic Yeatman. I have asked him to forward the invitation without delay.¬† I am also extending the invitation to him to attend our meeting where he may be able to explain the angle taken by his newspaper in presenting the story as written. I would be particularly interested to explore ways in which the Guardian might work with the Council, business community and partners such as the Epping Forest Chamber of Commerce and the Essex Federation of Small Businesses to encourage local residents back into our high streets.
Please reply to me at your earliest convenience via Mr Yeatman so that we can all find a mutually satisfactory date.
Councillor Lesley Wagland
Leader – Epping Forest District Council