… as it launches a campaign to reverse Wiltshire Council’s latest attempt to mug us by imposing outrageously high car parking charges. But the underlying premise is mistaken: in reality it’s doubtful whether anyone in Trowbridge thought it through in the first place.

Why should they? To them Salisbury is merely a wonderful source of income for a poverty-stricken county.

Does anyone – including those local councillors who foolishly backed the idea of creating a “single unitary authority” to run a sprawling rural county from a small town that nobody’s ever heard of – not now realise it was a disastrous mistake? These punitive charges are being imposed partly to try to force us to use expensive, inconvenient and unnecessary park-and-ride facilities; partly because the cathedral and Stonehenge are the most popular (and profitable) tourist attractions in the county and this is a way of cashing-in; but above all because County Hall knows there’s nothing we can do about it. Does anyone suppose that if we still had elected district councillors we’d have let them get away with this daylight robbery? Would we not also have made them block what’s about to happen to the market square and the central car park? Would any district councillor have dared even to suggest switching to fortnightly refuse collections? What’s so infuriatingly frustrating with the present set-up is the feeling of sheer helplessness. Our local government representation now comprises a token but powerless parish council, and just eight people (less than ten per cent) on a body which is 92-strong. The long-term answer, of course, is to split the county. The shorter-term solution will be the next county hustings, when we’ll be able to ask those seeking re-election whether they originally supported the unitary authority idea. Those who did should do as the Journal urges: think again.

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