It’s my Opinion

THE vultures circled Ellon town centre last week, seeking the rich pickings of a free parking place at one of the car parks where the meters have been out of order as a consequence of theft and vandalism.

Yes, I am referring to the well-informed motorists who cashed in on the situation, causing me to wonder if the same drivers would have been so quick to attend a meeting about the general welfare of the town, or a hustings meeting, or indeed any kind of gathering of interest to the development of the area.

What did amaze me was the communication network that evidently exists in the town, leading to the car parks being chock-a-block at 2pm in the afternoon.

Are we so mean that we queue up to enjoy the thrill of saving 60p, or could it be that the drivers of the area are sending out a carefully thought out message of protest to Aberdeenshire Council?

After all, it was local councillor Rob Merson who suggested last week that the process of robbery and stealing had started when the council raised the price of car parking in the Shire, despite assurances previously that no such thing would happen.

Clearly Cllr Merson is not a fan of the regime who hiked the charges up, making him the motorist’s friend.

Indeed I agree with the SNP member, who has clearly been out and about in the rest of Scotland, and found what I have found - that other local authorities are charging less, especially in rural areas.

My personal gripe in respect of the minimum charge of 60p for an hour is that the machines are not programmed to give change. This means that the council gets a nice little earner of an additional 40p when you have to pop in your pound.

Granted, we locals know to carry the correct amount, but what about our unsuspecting tourists whose visits and custom we say we crave? It’s hard to imagine a greater way to annoy visitors than by overcharging them just for the privilege of parking their vehicles for an hour or two.

But before you think I am totally opposed to any kind of car-parking charges, I would be happy to support a lesser charge - just not the greedy fee we are currently being asked to pay. In my opinion, 60p an hour is far too much.

If you doubt my word regarding lower charges, just go into the area surrounding Aberdeen University and you will find the charges are a low as 35p.

But don’t hold your breath in respect of any change in parking fees. This, after all, is an administration that is not likely to embark on a U-turn, nor indeed are they likely to listen.

It was ever thus!

Perhaps those of you who cruised around looking for free places to park were right to make your case, although I’m pretty sure the intention was in the main just to get something for nothing, albeit in the short term.

I do, however, wish there was more public debate on these matters, even if I know the same councillors are subject to officer control in Aberdeenshire that is the talk of local government circles in Scotland.

If this is to change, elected members need to break out and challenge officials now and again. And if you doubt my research, just check the number of times issues have been agreed in committee without a vote.

I vote for democracy when I go to the polls, not for an officer led administration.