“IF we didn’t have to do this we wouldn’t, after nine years of austerity we are having to make difficult decisions that we know are not popular but we have had no choice,” were the words of Councillor Damian White, Havering’s Leader of the Council as he addressed a hall packed full of local residents and shopkeepers in Cranham, on Tuesday 23rd of July.
The meeting was set up to discuss the increase in parking charges that have sparked off huge protests right across the borough from all areas of the community.
Angry shopkeepers and local residents are unhappy about the removal of the free 30 minutes parking and the new parking charges on a Sunday saying they are having huge detrimental effects on their businesses.
However, Councillor White spoke to the crowds about the strong impact austerity has had on Havering and how he has had no choice but to make these changes.
He said: “After being elected in 2018, the first role I had to undertake was to bring forward a savings campaign.
“This financial year we have had to make plans to save nearly £40 million pounds from day to day expenditure which is effectively nearly 10% of what the council spends.
“When I became leader of the council there was no plan on how to deal with the funding gap of £40 million in the first year and £37 million of savings over four years. We had only six months to put in place a package to make those savings. Unfortunately we are into nine years of austerity in local Government.”
Local Shop owners Caroline Sheldon and Bob Knowles, owners of the Upminster Tap Room, told The Enquirer: “Dropping the 30 minutes free and the charges on a Sunday has not directly impacted on us but has impacted on other businesses.
“We have spoken to other businesses owners who are saying their business has substantially dropped since the increase in parking charges.
“Pop in shops like newsagents, going in to grab a coffee and places like that have seen a big drop in footfall.
“We look out at St Mary’s Lane were there is a car park opposite and now there are lots of spaces that was never there before.
“Charging £1.50 overnight has impacted the businesses who do take away food because people are not coming out now to pick up there food.”
Councillor White answered questions from an angry crowd and shared the struggle the council has had trying to keep the council running to the standards residents are used to during difficult times.
He said “We know these decisions are not popular and we understand people’s concerns, they have not been made lightly and we have looked into all possible areas. We want to listen to our residents and work alongside them. ”