Islington drivers to be hit with triple whammy of extra charges

DRIVERS are being hit with a triple whammy of extra charges – leaving traders and residents fuming about the impact of price hikes in the midst of a recession.

Charges at pay-and-display meters have already risen 67 per cent in some parts of the borough.

Now the price of parking permits for both residents and businesses is also set to rocket – with residents seeing the cost increase by up to 50 per cent and businesses by up to 100 per cent.

Councillor Terry Stacy, leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition, said: “Labour councillors know this triple whammy will be hugely unpopular and that it will affect lower-income families disproportionately.

“I’m sure residents will be keen to hear how hiking up resident parking permit fees by up to 50 per cent is fair. These had been frozen by Liberal Democrat councillors for the last 10 years.

“How are these increases fair on local businesses too? Labour councillors say they want to support businesses while whacking up permit costs.”

Labour-controlled Islington Council – which needs to find between �65million and �100million in savings in the three years between 2011 and 2014 – insists that the changes are being introduced to “reduce traffic volumes”, cut down on the “negative environmental impacts of unnecessary car use within Islington” and make “parking fairer”.

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In 1995, a High Court judge ruled against neighbouring Camden Council, saying it was wrong to use parking to raise revenue.

But Danny Michelson, chairman of the Highbury Barn Traders’ Association, said: “This is absolutely diabolical. Islington Council is run by a group of officers who are anti-car idealists and with all the cuts that are going on, they think the motorist should be the fall guy. It’s absolutely scandalous.”

Businesses will see the cost of a permit for a high-emission car rise from �600 a year to �1,000 a year – and the cost of a permit for a second car rise from �600 a year to between �800 and �1,200 a year. In addition, their customers are being put off by whopping increases at many pay and display meters – by between 20 and 67 per cent.

And the most popular meters have seen the highest price hike – such as in Junction Road, Archway, and Leigh Road, Highbury, where the price has gone up from �1.20 to �2 an hour.

Hak Huseyin, chairman of the Archway Town Centre Management Group, said: “My business partner and I were paying �1,200 in total for our business permits. Now we will be paying �2,200 a year. Pay-and-display bays in Archway have also gone up – some by 50 per cent and others by 67 per cent.

“They are putting our costs up, and our customers off, and this is meant to be a recession.”

Ronke Lawal, chairwoman of the Islington Chamber of Commerce, has called on Islington Council to think again in an open letter, while residents are also reeling from hikes in their parking permits.

Edward Rowley, 27, who lives off Upper Street, Islington, said “The council has always claimed parking fees exist with the sole aim of keeping traffic moving. Is parking congestion twice as bad this year compared to last? If not, I can’t see what excuse Islington has for doubling the amount I am charged to park outside my own home.

“It’s a naked attempt to fill the coffers by targeting the motorist – and all the more angering because Islington Labour was so quick to play ‘friend of the motorist’ during its time in opposition.”

He added: “It’s illegal under common law to use parking as a money-making exercise and I’d be interested to see what Islington’s lawyers have to say about this.”

Islington Council insisted that the price hikes were not about raising money.

A spokesman said: “The overall pricing for residents’ permits has not changed for 10 years, while the costs of running the scheme have risen.

“Pay-and-display tariffs are carefully monitored to make sure bays are being used properly. If charges are too low then bays get used for longer-term parking and drivers have nowhere to park. That is why some bays have increased charges. It isn’t about making money.

“Business permits will stay the same for less-polluting vehicles and increase for more-polluting vehicles. This is to encourage the use of less-polluting vehicles.”

He added that there were other proposals designed to make things easier for residents - such as a scheme to allow them to use their parking permits anywhere in the borough, rather than just outside their homes.