Leader frustrated with council officers over parking shambles

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Council leader Stephen Baines has admitted that he has submitted a request through the Freedom of Information Act - to his own council.

The unprecedented move was in response to his exasperation with council officers when he was trying to investigate the legal blunder which led to on-street parking charges being suspended in Halifax town centre and Skircoat.

Coun Baines (Con, Northowram/Shelf), said: “I wasn’t being given the information. I’ve had apologies from the officers, but my patience had just ran out.”

The issue arose when a solicitor wrote to the Courier last month alleging that the council had been warned about the parking problems over a year ago, but the council ignored the issue.

Coun Baines said: “I saw the letter on November 7, and I asked officers on November 10 if there was there was any truth in these allegations, and I hadn’t received a reply, and last Friday I’d had enough - I finally lost it and put in a Freedom of Information request.

“It’s highly probable that I’m the first council leader to have done this, but I was just getting so frustrated.”

Linda Riordan, Labour MP for Halifax, said: “The leader of the council has clearly lost control of his own officers. Who is actually running Calderdale Council? If the council officers respond to the FOI request, but will not give that information to the elected leader, then surely the Tory administration should stand aside to give local people the strong and effective leadership they deserve.”

Calderdale Council’s chief executive, Merran McRae said: “When Coun Baines requested background information on parking we were slow to respond and we have apologised to him for this.

“Our priority has been the drafting of the new Traffic Regulation Orders for Halifax, but we have acknowledged that we have not communicated with him about his concerns as well as we should have done and this led to this unacceptable delay.”

The council has confirmed that on-street parking charges in Halifax town centre and Skircoat will continue to be suspended until May 2015.

It has been revealed that the council will be unable to get its Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) in order by January as initially belived by council officers.

However, this will mean that the council could lose an estimated £500,000 in lost revenue from pay-and-display machines - doubling the original estimated total when the blunder first emerged.