At 7pm on Friday 12 May 2017, two weeks after the publication of my first parking article, I received an e-mailed letter from Thanet Council headed “Defamation pre-action protocol”. The letter said that my 2 articles were factually wrong and that I must remove them for my blog site or legal action against me would follow. The Council has claimed that my publication of an allegation which had been reported to me, that a senior officer’s salary was paid for entirely from parking revenues, was not correct.Thanet Council has now informed me that the officer’s salary in respect of his new role is paid for by internal recharges as follows
Foreshore-Ge Maint 2.5%Parks General (12.5%)
Street Cleaning (12.5)
Refuse-Domestic & Trade (6.25%)
Green Waste Collection (2%)
Bulky Waste Collection (0.5%)
Street Scene Enforcement (5%)
On St Parking (20%)
Off Street Parking (13%)
I would like to thank Thanet Council for providing this information and for pointing out that 33% of the new role is funded from parking revenues.
Thanet Council have also pointed out my sums were awry in my reporting of the money generated by the Council from its parking operations. The RAC Foundation had reported that TDC parking services (on and off street) had generated a surplus of £460,000 for the financial year 2015-16. This was based on TDCs submissions to the Government. However TDC on its website had reported a surplus of only £330,000 (I had mistakenly reported this as a loss). The difference between the two sets of figures is due to pension costs and capital charges of £114,000. Full details of the pension & capital charges figures do not appear to be publically available on the TDC website. Perhaps in the future it might be wise for TDC to add this information so that no future misunderstanding could occur.
As I said in my original blog posts “if TDC can demonstrate to me and the public that my source's allegations are untrue I will immediately take down my post, make a public apology, and donate £50 to the mental health support charity the Garden Gate Project.
I now issue an apology to TDC and have taken down the articles from my blogsite. I will be contacting the Garden Gate Project this coming week to arrange to pay the donation and will publish a receipt to verify the payment.
As they say you win some and lose some and in this instance I was wrong. But we now know that 33% of a senior officer salary is funded from parking revenues and that during the financial year 2015-16 Thanet Council parking services generated a surplus of £330,000!
I note that TDC made a surplus of £698 from on-street parking in 2015/16. Under s55(3)&(4) of The Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, there is a requirement for TDC to produce a report on how and on what they spent any surplus made from on street parking. However, scouring their website I have been unable to discover any such report for 2015-16 or for any other years when surpluses were made(, 2012/13, 2013/14). Perhaps TDC can publish the missing reports.
Furthermore paragraphs 34 (footnote to) 46, and 47 of the Local Government Transparency Code 2014 & 2015 require Thanet Council to publish estimates of all parking account income (on street, off street and penalty notices) within one month of the financial year end; publish a breakdown of how the council has spent any year end surpluses on its parking accounts(on street, off street and penalty notices), and publish the number of marked out controlled on and off street parking spaces within its area, or an estimate of that number where controlled parking spaces have not been marked out.
I have searched TDCs website to find this information without success. I wonder why important information about TDCs parking income and parking space numbers, which the Government requires to be made publically avaible, appears to be missing? This is especially worrying, because this information is likely to have a bearing on the important public consultation exercise underway about parking policy in Thanet? What do you think?