Coleman: “Barnet would’ve been ok with less cash”

Anger at Brian Coleman’s claims as council doubles parking fees

CLAIMS by controversial politician Brian Coleman that Barnet Council could have coped with less funding from Transport for London have been criticised by residents living in the borough who have just been handed a parking fee hike.

Cllr Coleman, who is also London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden, made the statement as he and other assembly members quizzed Transport Commissioner Peter Hendy on his budget for the next financial year.

Barnet saw its Local Implementation Plan (LIP) funding from Transport for London (TfL) slashed from �5.3million for 2010/11 to �4.6million for 2011/12 – a fall of 13 per cent. The money is designed to fund local projects that support the Mayor’s transport strategy.

Residents seemed bewildered when Cllr Coleman made the statement, particularly as it came on the same day Barnet Council insisted parking charges had to more than double in order to raise funds.

He told City Hall: “It may not win me many friends with my colleagues that serve on London councils but my view is that there are substantial savings to be made.

“Certainly my own borough was expecting a more severe cut to the LIP than we received in the end and frankly, we could have lived with it.”

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When Mr Hendy quipped that he could always go back and revisit Barnet’s settlement and other members laughed, Mr Coleman responded: “I’m relaxed about that – quite relaxed.”

Liberal Democrat councillor for Childs Hill, Cllr Monroe Palmer, said Cllr Coleman should be fighting for local funding, not advocating its reduction.

“I find it strange when Barnet and Camden’s representative on the GLA is virtually complaining that Barnet residents have been given too much money by the government, because it really doesn’t fit with their scenario of being in financial torture.

“I agree with Cllr Coleman on one thing – the settlement was more generous than expected.

“But where I violently disagree with him is that we should not grab that settlement with open hands but actually seek to make life better for people in the locality.”

Parking permits for residents in Barnet are set to rise from �42 to �100 a year if councillors agree plans. Free bays in the area are also set to be changed to residents’ parking, with visitor permits increasing from �1 to �4.80.

Gary |Shaw, parking spokesman for Hampstead Garden Suburb Residents’ Association, said: “Whatever councils raise through parking, they don’t have to dip into their general fund for.

‘‘Councils are continuing to use parking charges to fund their general empires – there’s no doubt that is behind this huge increase Barnet is proposing.

“So I’m surprised Cllr Coleman has said they could have got by with less money.”

Money received as part of Barnet’s LIP settlement in 2011/12 include �184,000 to improve the A1081 Sunset Road and �500,000 for works around a series of Underground stations, such as East Finchley.

TfL said the cuts to local councils were less severe than expected because the cuts they will have to make following the Comprehensive Spending Review are back-loaded, becoming more severe over the next three years.

The money given out across London will fall by three per cent next year, five per cent in 2012/13 and then drop by 12 per cent in 2013/14.