Political row over parking claims

Coun Gordon Castle with the Liberal Democrat newsletter.
Coun Gordon Castle with the Liberal Democrat newsletter.
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A POLITICAL newsletter has been branded ‘misleading nonsense’ after it claimed credit for making parking ‘free’ for Northumberland residents.

The latest issue of Focus on Alnwick, published by the Liberal Democrat office in the town, carries an article on the introduction of the new residents’ parking pass, featuring a photograph of party campaigners Dr Clare Mills and Heather Cairns, who is a former leader of Alnwick District Council, in front of a parking meter.

Beneath the headline ‘Lib Dems deliver free parking for residents’, it states that ‘Lib Dems in Northumberland have listened to local people and are making parking in Northumberland free for residents’.

Mrs Cairns is then quoted saying: “The parking pass, which will be available for a small fee, will let people who live in Northumberland park in council car parks for free between certain times of the day.”

But Alnwick’s county councillor Gordon Castle has launched a stinging attack on the publication.

He said: “There are lies, damned lies and Lib Dem leaflets. When I first saw it, I thought they had adopted the Conservative policy of making parking totally free for residents across the county. It turns out that this is not the case and the article is totally misleading and frankly nonsense.

“It makes no mention that the permit is only valid in three off-street car parks in Alnwick – at Greenwell Lane, Roxbro Place and Dispensary Street. They have also had the front to take a photograph of themselves at the parking meter on Bondgate Within, which is not covered by the residents’ permit scheme.”

Coun Castle added: “The insult added to this injury is that the Liberal Democrats are actually proposing to increase car-parking charges in Alnwick, something which is now doing the rounds in their budget consultation. Of course, they haven’t mentioned this, or the fact that there will still be no charge in the south east of the county.

“It makes you wonder how low they will sink to get votes.”

But Dr Mills said: “The Conservatives should sort out their incoherent message. The Conservatives had the chance to bring in free parking for Northumberland residents – on July 27, 2011, the full council voted on the following motion: ‘Council will retain the free parking we have in the south east of Northumberland and extend it across the county’.

“But not one Conservative voted in support of this motion. All 14 Conservative councillors present at the meeting abstained.

“The Lib Dems recognise that it has to be possible to provide some residents’ parking in our market towns. This is what we’ve done. As we said in our leaflet, and continue to say, the parking pass, which will be available for a small fee, will let people who live in Northumberland park in council car parks for free between certain times of the day. I’d like to thank Gordon Castle for giving me the opportunity to clarify the Lib Dem position – perhaps now he’d like to clarify the Conservatives’?”