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Labour in U-turn on parking amid climate fears

29 November, 2019 — By Calum Fraser

Lord Sandys appears at the hustings

THE leader of Islington Council came under fire at a hustings focused on climate issues, forcing him to reveal a council U-turn on parking policy.

Richard Watts looked hot under the collar as he stepped in for Jeremy Corbyn in front of an informed and animated crowd at the Town Hall Monday.

During his opening speech, Cllr Watts was heckled by the crowd for delivering the packaged party message of a choice between “business as usual” versus “real change” instead of directly ad­d­ressing climate issues.

Chairing the husting, Rosalind Readhead highlighted the fact that Islington Council has introduced an extra 800 parking spaces in the borough since 2010.

She said: “How is this going to help air pollution when it appears to be encouraging more car use?”

Cllr Watts then indicated that the council will be performing a U-turn on this policy when he told the room: “I am in no doubt that the number of parking spaces needs to go down and not up. That is the future policy direction of Islington. I think you will see the first draft of the transport strategy will be more strongly reflective of that.”

Anita Frizzarin, from the audience, asked why the council continued with its “roamer” scheme which gives residents with a parking permit the right to park cars in Controlled Parking Zones [CPZ] across the borough “encouraging short distance driving.”

Cllr Watts said that most residents did not take advantage of their “roamer” rights, decreas­ing the environmental impact. He added: “The biggest damage to Islington Council’s capacity to drive change is an austerity agenda imposed on this council by a Lib Dem and Conservative coalition who hate this area and hate public services.”

Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Islington North Nick Wakeling received a tepid reception when he championed electric vehicles.

He said: “We will ban diesel cars by 2025 and petrol by 2030. In that time frame we will build up and support the infrastructure for an electrified system. So that actually is our priority. In terms of banning car ownership in the borough itself, you don’t need that if you are migrating towards electric cars.”

But the Green Party candidate for the same constituency Caroline Russell warned that electric cars damage the environment through the lithium and cobalt mining in countries where slave and child labour is rife.

She said: “We will also be investing massively in walking and cycling and public transport so that people have real alternatives to driving. Far too many people feel forced to use and own a car. Unlike the Lib Dems we do not think that electric cars will sort this out. We think electric technology should be reserved for public transport.”

She added: “I would rather people kept the car they had and just used it much less instead of buying a new car.”

Brexit Party candidates did not attend the husting. The Conserva­tives also failed to attend, replicating Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision not to attend a Channel 4 leaders debate last night focused on the threat of climate change.

Lord Sandys, the Monster Raving Loony Party candidate, spoke briefly but then left without listening to any of his fellow candidates.

A full list of candidates standing in Islington North, and Islington South and Finsbury, is available on the Islington Tribune’s website.

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