On Tuesday night I sat on the Scrutiny & Overview Committee that looked at a proposal to bring emissions-based parking charges to Sutton. I wrote about this when Richmond introduced a similar scheme in 2006. Fortunately after more than two hours, the committee saw sense and killed off any thoughts about such a plan.

It has been calculated that 1.69% of Richmond’s total CO2 emissions come from cars with a parking permit yet they are unduly penalised. Here, residents in Cheam, Belmont, St Helier and Wallington could pollute as much as they wanted to. Similarly anyone in a controlled parking zone with off-street parking would not be affected. Amazingly, as the controlled hours are during the day, anyone who drives their car to work every day would be free to do so with no penalty as they would not need a permit. The only ones who would have to pay would be people whose cars were parked up, not emitting a single cough of CO2. A back of the envelope calculation showed that only 3.5% of cars in Sutton would have to pay this cost on the back of everyone’s pollution.

Everyone at the committee takes the responsibility of reducing emissions seriously but this smacked of doing something because we need to be seen to act rather than an effective move. We were not allowed to question Colin Hall, the Lead Councillor who commissioned the report. Members of the committee were perplexed when Cllr Roger Roberts, the chairman of the committee took it upon himself to explain to officers what the recommendation of the committee should be without letting members have their say. Despite widespread antipathy to the fundamental idea of such charging, he proposed that the Council Officer went away and spent more time redrafting the report. Fortunately, he was slapped down as was the report.

It wasn’t quite the end of the fun as the Chairman managed to push through two discussion papers without allowing any discussion. The Council is undergoing a corporate assessment at the moment which is much like an OFSTED inspection in a school when assessors look at absolutely everything and appear everywhere. The chief assessor sat in on this meeting. We are currently a four star rated Council. Last night I could see one of those stars tiptoeing its way to the door.