I have written before about Labour’s attempt to sneak through huge increases in some car park charges in Reading and the introduction of charges in some car parks that had previously been free. The proposal originally came from NCP, to whom the Council handed management and maintenance of its car parks in 2007 on a 15 year contract. After 4 years of no increases in charge NCP were seeking increases of 25% or more in many short to medium term charges and a cut in some long term charges.
After I and my Conservative colleagues challenged the proposal using the Council’s “call in” procedures, Labour’s Lead Transport Spokesman backed down and agreed to a consultation with the opposition parties. Having received a briefing from Council Officers and having studied the changes in more detail I have submitted my thoughts to the Council. I have made the case verbally and in writing for an initial free period of at least one hour in the car parks in question but particularly in the car parks in Tilehurst and Caversham. I have also argued for a lower increase in the short to medium term charges, with the long term charges not being cut as originally proposed.
I look forward to hearing the outcome of discussions between NCP and the Council on the final structure of charges to be implemented but it is worth noting that this opportunity would never have happened if we had not spotted the Decision Book item and called it in.
I have occasionally been asked why it is that I have so little time for many Lib Dem activists. They like to cultivate the image of being a party of local campaigners who only have the good of residents at heart. They contrast themselves at every opportunity with any Conservative or Labour representatives they can find who in anyway falls short of their stated ideal. Those who have had more than a cursory encounter with a range of Lib Dems would know that in fact they have at least as many rogues as other parties and arguably more.
I have commented on their tactics before. In particular their local government handbook that advises their candidates to “be wicked, act shamelessly, stir endlessly”. However, a new example has come to light of disgraceful and underhand tactics by a leading Lib Dem activist. I am grateful to a reader from abroad who sent me the link to this story.
Quite a number of bloggers have covered the story of how Dan Falchikov, a key Kingston Lib Dem activist and political assistant to Southwark Lib Dem group was caught boasting that he had started the lie that the Kingston Hospital was under threat of closure. He even caused the sitting Lib Dem MP to begin a campaign to “Save Kingston Hospital”. I don’t suggest that Susan Kramer was aware that her own local activist was the source of the scare story. It seems that Falchikov decided to elevate the fact that all hospitals in South West London are subject to an ongoing review into a statement that there were “secret plans to close Kingston hospital”.
He was caught out when he spent most of a train journey boasting about what a clever chap he was for inventing the story and getting the Evening Standard to run it. Fortunately for those local people who work at Kingston Hospital or who depend on it for their services, he was overheard by a national journalist who secretly took his photo and published it. It didn’t take long for Falchikov to be identified. What sort of sick mind deliberately scares vulnerable people about the loss of a hospital they depend upon?
Once again a key Lib Dem activist has been caught out fabricating a story to further his party’s political ends. Fortunately he was unmasked and the people of Kingston and Southwark now know what they may be getting if they vote Lib Dem. Of course there are many decent Lib Dem activists and Councillors but Falchikov’s actions have reminded us that beneath that “holier than thou” Lib Dem exterior sometimes lurks a rather nastier face.