THE sly, cynical, borderline dishonesty of Wiltshire Council’s parking CONsultation beggars belief. Unsurprisingly the council has signed up to the proposed 12 per cent (on average) increases across the county for car park charges.

The alternatives offered under Option 1 (Question 3) of the consultation were this or cutting rural bus services, so clearly many decent people wouldn’t choose the latter to disadvantage others less fortunate than themselves.

The obvious third choice would have been to harmonise charges across the county on a revenue-neutral basis, then increase these by 12 per cent, but this was not offered. I abstained from this question and sent an email explaining why, which I was assured would be “considered” (dream on…).

Harmonisation was, however, proposed for residents’ parking permits (Question 8) - but in terms of levelling up the Salisbury charges (over 90 per cent of the total) to the much higher figure of the miniscule “other areas across the county” - not on a weighted, revenue-neutral base plus 12 per cent.

We wait to see whether Salisbury will be hammered yet further on this. The original justification for residents’ parking was that it would be a benefit to residents to prevent shopper and commuter parking, with charges only sufficient to cover administration.

The schedule of current and proposed parking charges county-wide (Appendix 3) can still be viewed online. Not only is Salisbury the most expensive in the county, but no other town charges for parking on Sundays and some are free on bank holidays too. Trowbridge charges are little more than half those of Salisbury. Since most of the officials who compiled these proposals, and doubtless briefed the councillors, probably live in or near Trowbridge, might there not be some conflict of interest?

Parking season tickets (Appendix 5) are likewise most expensive in Salisbury – by a factor of about two to five times! If they too are raised by a flat 12 per cent, such an increase would also most likely be reflected in railway station parking season ticket charges, to deter people not travelling by train from using that as a cheaper option.

I wonder whether Salisbury City Council can appeal to the Local Government Ombudsman, or even seek judicial review, on the grounds that such a biased consultation, followed by ignoring the flaws identified in responses, constitutes maladministration.

It is not as if the rest of Wiltshire is a deprived area with the former Salisbury District an oasis of prosperity.

“Wiltshire Council - where everybody matters”?

If this sort of blatant discrimination continues, perhaps Salisbury/South Wiltshire should seek to become a separate unitary authority and borough, like Swindon – referendum, anyone?

PHILIP CORP, Salisbury