Matt Bishop, Parking Charges Sign, Di Martin
Matt Bishop, Parking Charges Sign, Di Martin

Members of the Labour Group on the Forest of Dean District Council expect criticism and challenge, but Councillor Di Martin, says” the horrendous, nasty, inaccurate comments by some councillors” following the passing of the council budget has been appalling.

“I can cope with criticism” she says “but outward lies about why Labour Councillors voted with the Greens, Independents and Liberal Democrat’s on budgetary issues must be called out.  Our MP, Tory Councillors and Progressive Independents calling us traitors, saying we have no interest in our Forest of Dean is wrong and unacceptable”.

On parking specifically, Labour members made representation to the Green Party and advised that Labour would not support or vote for the initial proposed car park charge increases. They listened, and agreed with Labour that there should be no charge to park for the first hour, in all our car parks. They also listened and agreed that the charge for the 2nd hour, should not be a steep rise, and that £1 would be fairer and more appropriate. Even with these increases, we still charge the lowest amount in Council Car Parks compared with Monmouth, Chepstow, Stroud, Gloucester, Tewkesbury & Ross-on-Wye.

Di Martin says it’s been important to work with the majority Green Group on the council, because that way there can be consultations that allow Labour to challenge, criticise, or suggest new ideas. “All groups except the Progressive Independents and the Tories have joined in”.  It’s these politicians, including the local MP, who are saying the parking increase is an outrage when they took no part in any discussions to influence policy.

“All I can say is that we did what we thought was right, especially over the car parking charges” continues Di “yes, the Labour Group did vote for some budgetary increases, examples being an apprenticeship scheme and bringing in new staff to help with changing environmental legislation.  I make no excuses, I stick to what I believe to be right, to be just, and what is best for our beautiful Forest of Dean.

Matt Bishop says, “when I spoke to residents, businesses and people travelling to the Forest for work, the majority understood why there was a need for increases.”

“Mark Harper has written to say how disappointed he is and the pressure this will put on people. I say that it is important to remember the following facts, parking charges were first introduced in the Forest of Dean by the Conservative administration and the reasons all local councils are having to increase charges, including car parking charges, are because of years of austerity and local councils being starved of funding by the Conservatives.”

There have also been concerns raised about rises in Council Tax, but Matt Bishop says people need to be aware that “The council tax payments received by the Forest of Dean District Council is very minimal to what you pay. The biggest increases are from Gloucestershire County Council, a Conservative Administration, and the Police & Crime Commissioner, also Conservative.  I appreciate no increases are ever welcomed, but due to the state of the finances that the UK finds itself in, due to this Conservative Government, all local councils across the country are having to make increases. Don’t be fooled by what other parties will try to have you believe in a General Election year.”

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