Parking charges for disabled drivers in Boston go ahead despite protest
PROTESTS and threats of legal action failed to prevent a proposal to make disabled drivers pay to use council car parks in Boston from being approved.
Originally due to come into force last month, the charges were delayed by four formal objections which forced Boston Borough Council to hold a special meeting to reconsider the fees.
Members of Boston Disability Forum staged a protest outside the council headquarters before the meeting and their pleas for a change of heart won the backing of almost all opposition councillors.
But after a tense debate which was regularly punctuated by bursts of applause or angry shouts from the public gallery, the charges were approved by 17 votes to 10.
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All Conservative councillors present except for Mayor Colin Brotherton who, as is customary for the borough's first citizen, did not vote, supported the fees as did independent Alan Lee.
Prior to the vote several non-Tory councillors urged the ruling group to reconsider its proposal while others called for a suggested extra 30 minute parking time for Blue Badge holders to be extended to one hour.
Labour leader Paul Kenny compared the fees idea to the Government's ill-fated "pasty tax" and said the council's administration should follow Prime Minister David Cameron's example and perform a u-turn.
He also warned that the fees could face a legal challenge which, if the authority lost, would prove costly to taxpayers.
Councillor Kenny appealed to the Conservative group to "take a step back" and "do the right thing for the disabled people of this town."
Independent councillor Carol Taylor accused the administration of "putting finances before people" while the Boston and District Independents deputy leader Alison Austin said: "Are we so hard up that we as a council need to squeeze every penny out of our disabled residents?"
Labour's Paul Goodale also spoke out against the charges but said if they were imposed there should be a "fair compromise" with the extra 30 minutes extended to one hour.
Conservative Mike Gilbert defended the fees plan claiming it was about "equality" and "giving people the opportunity to pay their way."
Meanwhile his fellow Tory and parking portfolio holder, Derek Richmond, dismissed calls for the Boston Disability Forum's opposition to the proposals to be given more weight stating that would be like "asking turkeys to vote for Christmas."