Tuesday, 9 April 2013

H&F Tories: Vote for fines!

H&F Conservatives: Vote for more of this!
An extraordinary admission has been made, I suspect in error, by the local Conservatives in a row provoked by an interview given to the Fulham Chronicle by Labour Leader Stephen Cowan.

In it, Mr Cowan pledged that an incoming Labour administration would reduce the number of box junctions and associated motorist fines they generate.

He also made a number of other policy announcements, previewing a local Labour manifesto for the forthcoming local elections in May 2014. Those elections will be critical in determining the future of our borough, as this admission on Shepherd’s Bush Market makes clear.

Unsurprisingly the Tories have reacted to the interview and attacked the policies on the grounds that they would cost the borough money and risk tax rises, quoting Cowan and responding point by point with the projected cost. That’s a fair enough line of attack, but what was a bit childish was headlining the article “clueless Cowan”, the sort of thing you might hear in a primary school playground at lunchtime.

But the real clanger for me is this passage, which starts by quoting Cowan:
“don’t need to penalise motorists with box junctions and cameras everywhere"
The Tories respond:
This isn’t a commitment to remove every box junction and camera, but it implies a significant proportion. Box junctions exist to stop congestion and revenue is used to make improvements. Nevertheless, assuming Labour removed two-thirds of box junctions (with any additional junctions being offset by the loss of cameras) that would create a shortfall of £4 million a year. The total over four years would be £12 million.
Annual cost: £4 million

Total cost: £12 million

Really? A “shortfall” of £4 million per year? Have we really arrived at the point that fining motorists is now not to do with applying sanctions and enforcing the law but is actually viewed as a legitimate form of extracting money from people to fund public services? It seems that in the world of Hammersmith & Fulham we have.

So the message coming out from here for next year might be “Vote Conservative – Get Fines!”. As political messages go, it’s possibly not the greatest move our local Conservatives have ever made.


  1. The beauty of the fines is that a proportion - probably a substantial proportion in view of the Borough's shape and location - is born by non-residents. Is it canny politics of Clr. Cowan to offer a better deal to non-voters? What would a non-driving council tax payer say?

  2. Chris,

    You miss the point. The money collected by fines - by law - is ring-fenced for environmental improvements, like footpaths and roads. You know how crap the paving has become in Lyric square? If you never want to see it refurbished, then by all means remove box junctions.

    As H points out above, many of the fines go to non-residents. So by removing them, you're shifting the tax burden solely to residents, including those that don't drive.

    It's not ideal. It might be seen as a stealth tax, but I'd prefer it to either having fewer improvements, or higher council tax imposed on everyone.