A lack of transparency

How often have we complained that local authorities withhold information to the public for not wishing to reveal matters which they feel might jeopardise their position?

It has been reported that Carl Maynard, the leader of Rother District Council, had defended the way in which the Council operated in publishing its financial information with regard to payments made to departing senior staff.

The Minister of Local Government, Kris Hopkins, MP, in a letter to Carl Maynard said he expected councils to be open and transparent about how they use taxpayers’ money and how they make decisions.

He made it very plain in his letter that the published information on the Council’s website on senior salaries did not meet the requirements of the mandatory Local Government Transparency Code 2014, although the Council said it would comply (belatedly it seems) with the Code by April 2015.

However, it appears that there were other areas that Kris Hopkins had identified from reading the Council’s web site which equally showed lacking transparency, such as contracts over £5,000, land and assets and parking revenues.

The Council must surely realize that it is accountable to the electorate whose votes they will be seeking on the 7th May, and full disclosure is the only way the public can make an informed decision.

It is some coincidence then that I had recently asked Rother District Council under the Freedom of Information Act for details of income and expenditure from each of Rother’s car parks in Rye to enable to ascertain their usage.

The response I received was that “the management of car parks is not recorded by individual sites.” I was told that “surplus income generated from the pay and display car parks support amenity based and non-pay and display car parks as well as statutory services.”

I found it difficult to believe that there could not be a breakdown between each car park for money collected and overheads where wages, depreciation etc could be apportioned.

I was informed that the total income from Rother’s car parks in Rye (less the Rye Swimming Pool car park) was for 2014/Jan 2015 £260,934.00, and that the total costs were £148,626.92, which I calculated the profit would be £112,307.08. It would be interesting to know how this resulting revenue was spent. Probably not a lot in Rye!

Whenever will there be a solution to Rye’s chaotic parking problems? Without proper enforcement of parking violations I cannot see any solution. Rye Town Council wrings it hands with the Mayor stating “the issue is high on the council’s agenda”. It seems to me we have only two options.

One is to employ a Community Warden as many other parishes have, and which I had suggested to the Council in the past, or to go for broke, as councillor Lord Ampthill has repeatedly suggested, and that is to decriminalize parking.

The latter option may involve the erection of parking meters up and down the High Street which I suggest would not be popular, with the employment of a traffic warden issuing tickets for those unlawfully parked or overstaying their time. I have as yet to be told there is a middle way.

As Lord Ampthill has said “one thing is certain, and that is the police are not going to be active in this field”. Meanwhile the chaotic situation is likely to continue whilst irresponsible owners of vehicles flout the law.

At a meeting of the Highways Forum in February Brian Banks, in his capacity as Team Leader of ESCC Road Safety, gave consideration to various proposals submitted by the Forum regarding road safety issues arising from the controversial development in Deadman’s Lane and other issues in the Grove and Love Lane.

The greatest concern was the inherent danger of wrong-way driving from the new development with vehicles turning right into Rye Hill. Compounding the dangers was the use of pedestrians and cyclists using the lane.

It goes without saying that the development should have never been approved. That it was approved by Rother’s Planning Department without any forethought of entering into a 106 Agreement with the development for possibly having a footway or footpath to protect the passage of pedestrians is incomprehensible.

Now it is too late for any negotiation to take place. I brought up the subject at Rye Town Council’s Planning committee last Monday but after much discussion it was thought the chances of arising at any practical solution was doubtful.

A suggestion to ensuring the passage of vehicles should have maximum clearance by cutting back vegetation seemed to be the most likely way forward for the moment. It is hoped that Highways will agree to a sign be erected immediately opposite the entrance to the development to show the need to turn left into the lane.