Norman Baker – our man

29 Jan

Norman Baker is the ‘Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State’  in charge of public transport issues, walking cycling etc and is therefore ‘our man’.

In the past he has pressed for action on the issue. In January 2010 as shadow Secretary of State for Transport he asked: “To ask the Minister of State, Department for Transport for what reason powers to ban pavement parking outside London were not included in the revised civil enforcement powers introduced in 2009.” to which he got the answer “Local authorities outside London already have powers to prohibit parking on the footway where they consider this to be a problem, using Traffic Regulation Orders and appropriate traffic signs. They are also able to use physical measures such as high kerbs or bollards, which are self-enforcing and effective… There are no powers in primary legislation for the Secretary of State to make regulations that would enable local authorities to ban parking on the footway without a Traffic Regulation Order”. He was right to ask and the suggestion in the response that Traffic Regulation Orders are appropriate was ingenuous. Traffic Regulation Orders are expensive and the cost is often given as the reason for inaction.

He is of course now making the rules not challenging them. In August 2010 he gave an in-depth interview on general issue of parking in Local Transport Today – available for subscribers only – which was detailed, and fair except that he barely mention the issue of pavement parking. He did however meet with Living Streets the same month who reported that he was ‘open’ to taking action on the issue.  We now need to raise the profile of the issue with all of our MPs so that he does!

Here are a few quotes from the Local Transport Today article:

“Baker sees nothing wrong with councils charging for parking in town and city centres. “Nobody likes to pay for parking if you can get it for nothing — that’s just human nature,” he says. “But if people step back and think about it they will accept it is legitimate to charge for parking. Provided it is a fair price, and it is properly enforced, then they are happy with that.

“I think motoring itself has a consequence for society in terms of emissions and everything else, which is reflected in charges levied, whether through national taxation or local parking charges

“A “fair price” depends on where you park. “A fair price in Brighton is very different to the price in a village. To some degree it is driven by public transport alternatives. I don’t object to parking charges being high in Brighton because there are very good bus and train services there. If I want to drive to Brighton I should pay a bit more to park there than if I drive somewhere where there is no public transport. These are localised decisions.

“Baker is in favour of car clubs, and points out that car club charity Carplus has received £40,000 in extra government funding to help it continue its accreditation, data collection and information services. He notes that membership of car clubs in the UK has gone up from 22,000 in 2007 to more than 127,000 this year.

“Councils should also consider setting resident permits and car park charges based on a vehicle’s emission level, suggests Baker. “You might look at some point in the future as to whether parking becomes cheaper for low emission vehicles,” he says.

“He wants to see an improved customer “interface” between civil enforcement officers (CEOs), operators and the public. “There is a need to make a distinction between different types of offender.” He offers the example of a heavily pregnant woman who overstays slightly at a pay & display bay. She should be given some leeway, says Baker, unlike “some guy popping into the kebab shop, who is just parked on the pavement because it happens to be convenient to do so, when there is a parking space opposite.“ These are different situations, so I want people to be trained to make those sorts of value judgements and not feel obliged to stick to the rules absolutely.”

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