>> 21 March 2011

Ellon & District SNP councillor Rob Merson brought the Liberal Democrat/Conservative administration’s plans to increase parking charges to within one vote of defeat in last week’s meeting of Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee (ISC).

Opening the debate, Cllr Merson reminded the committee that when charges were increased at the last review, a commitment was given that they would not be increased for a further period of three years. ISC Chairman, Cllr Peter Argyle, said that no councillor was comfortable with the increases being made, but that the council had an obligation to review every opportunity to raise revenue. Cllr Merson responded by citing the minutes of two previous Council meetings and quoted Cllr Argyle from a Council press release - all of which confirmed that the charges were to be fixed for a period of three years.

Cllr Merson said:

“While there is no doubt that Aberdeenshire Council must look at every means possible of reducing costs and increasing revenue, there was a firm promise made to the people of Aberdeenshire that these charges would not be increased for three years, and I come from a school where a promise is a promise. I am sure that the Chair is an honourable man, so I would be pleased to assist him by moving that we approve the increase – but that it is not implemented until June 2012, which will allow him to fulfil his undertaking.”

The motion was seconded by Cllr Stuart Pratt, and vigorous debate followed in which Cllr Argyle accused Cllr Merson of ‘being political’, and argued that he doubted whether the Committee was in a position to bind the Council to an increase thirteen months away, to which Cllr Merson retorted:

”There would be no reason to - if you hadn’t already bound it for a period of three years!”

A second amendment by Cllr John Cox to freeze charges for the first hour’s parking having been defeated, the Committee voted against Cllr Merson’s motion by only seven votes to six. Commenting after the debate, Cllr Merson remarked:

“This issue was a matter of principle, not politics, and I am very disappointed that the Council should have seen fit to break a firm and unconditional promise that it made to the people of Aberdeenshire. However, having brought them within one vote of defeat on this issue, the people of Aberdeenshire can be assured that we will continue to challenge the administration in other areas where we feel that their proposals are not acceptable.”

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