Frozen Parking Account 'Dodgy' says Malcolm

Cllr Barchuk counters accusations from Lib Dem spokesman

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Over the last few days there has been a sharp exchange between two councillors over the multi-million parking account at Ealing Council.

At the recent Acton Area Committee meeting Lib Dem Cllr Gary Malcolm, asking questions about Acton-based Controlled Parking Zone schemes (CPZs), found that the Council have frozen the Parking account. He called this 'dodgy', wondering whether the money was to be diverted into funding 'media stunts' for the Ealing Council. This brought a stern rebuke from Acton Central's Conservative Councillor Vlod Barchuk (in charge of transport) that Cllr Malcolm is provoking an unnecessary storm and that the only publicity stunt is Cllr Malcolm's own press release.

The freezing of the Parking account effectively means that no CPZ schemes or 'Minor Parking Schemes' previously agreed can currently be implemented in Southfield or Acton – or indeed across the whole borough of Ealing.

When Cllr Malcolm questioned Cllr Barchuk, he got an assurance that after the Audit is completed (apparently in about 3 weeks) he will receive details of the financial investigation and its conclusions.

Cllr Gary Malcolm, Lib Dem Transport spokesperson, said: “The Lib Dems know the parking account is a very large account, of many millions of pounds, and to freeze its spending, it appears that either it is being managed poorly or perhaps something dodgy has gone on.”

Gary added: “Before the meeting residents raised CPZ scheme queries with me about Southfield and Acton. The council is now sadly making them wait again. Something is not right and residents want answers not delays! I hope the council is not sneakily transferring money from the Parking account to somewhere else, to cover a financial black whole or to fund a large media stunt about a new policy.”

Vlod Barchuk counters these accusations. He says there is a report going to the Council’s Cabinet (to be published next Monday, and probably to be mentioned at the Council meeting the next day) so the full position will become public then. "However, Gary Malcolm’s press release, and the references to this situation in area committee reports, has already put some of the facts into the public domain."

Vlod continued: "The council has discovered an historic problem with the Parking Places Reserve Account (PPRA).  The problem relates to the income collected from parking tickets and decriminalised traffic offences. The problem goes back two years and results from over optimistic assumptions on income the Council would receive for tickets issued. Essentially this is money that the Council had assumed it would receive from tickets issued but in fact is extremely unlikely to ever see.

"The matter is being investigated and should be resolved within the next month or so.  However until the impact of [the] problem is completely clear, expenditure from the account on transport and traffic related projects (mostly CPZ and minor traffic schemes) has been suspended.

"I have to take great exception to Gary Malcolm’s suggestion that maybe the Council is going to transfer money elsewhere. Money in the parking account is ring-fenced; it can only be spent on transport schemes, including the cost of enforcing CPZs and bus lanes – that is why it is so important to ensure expenditure does not exceed income (any deficit would have to be made up from other Council funds and that could mean the Council taxpayer).

"It is not legally possible to transfer income from the parking account elsewhere and Gary Malcolm has been a councillor long enough to know this. And as to funding a media stunt, the only media stunt is Cllr Malcolm’s press release."


June 12, 2007