A DISTRICT councillor has accused Forest MP Mark Harper of “clearly trying to win votes” by attempting to “mislead” the public into thinking Labour supports a proposed hike in parking charges.
But Mr Harper says he hasn’t written anything that is untrue, and is “pleased” that Labour councillors have now joined him in opposing the move by the Green Party.
Councillor Matt Bishop (Labour, Cinderford East) claims Mr Harper has “at least twice” this month suggested that Labour is partly responsible for the Green administration’s proposal to increase parking charges in the Forest by 300% - from 50p to £2 for up to two hours.
Cllr Bishop, who is Chair of the Labour group at the Forest Council, wants to set the record straight that Labour has had no input into the content of the council’s draft budget.
The Green Party formed a minority administration to run the council following the local elections last May, with the support of Labour councillors.
But there are no Labour councillors in the current cabinet, which created the draft budget.
In his column for The Forester last week, parts of which were also posted on his website and social media, Conservative MP Harper heavily criticised the Greens’ parking proposal before also taking a shot at Labour councillors.
He wrote: “As a part of their plans, the council (which is led by the Green Party, with the support of Labour councillors) are proposing to hike the price of a 2-hour parking ticket by 300%, from 50p to £2, and a 4-hour+ ticket by 150%, from £2 to £5.
“Needless to say, I don’t support these proposals, and have made that very clear to the council."
He added: “This is what we get when Green and Labour politicians run our District Council, teaming up to target the poorest motorists.”
Cllr Bishop has confirmed that he, as a Labour Councillor and Chair of the Labour group, does not support the increase and that should it be brought to a vote at full council, he “will vote against it!”
He said: “In my opinion, Mr Harper is clearly trying to win votes before the next General Election he faces this year.
“He knows the Conservatives' time in power is all but finished and he knows the mistakes that have been and continue to be made by them.
“I would like to think that rather than trying to win political points during an election year by making false and misleading comments about his main opponents, that he considers there have been five Conservative Prime Ministers in less than eight years (including the shortest reigning ever, and one who lied to the Queen and the rest of the world!).
“That 3/4 of Britons think the country is in a worse state than when the Tories came to power. That the Conservative party are facing obliteration at the next General Election.”
He added: “We all know why councils up and down the country are having to raise prices and that starts with his own party. Maybe he would like to work harder on the country’s, and indeed, the Forest’s road networks (managed by the Conservative-led County Council) which are not in the best state due to more cutbacks from his own party.”
Mr Harper wrote in response: “Cllr Bishop should read what I wrote.
“I said the Council is proposing to hike the price of a two-hour parking ticket by 300%. They are and Cllr Bishop agrees that’s true.
“I also said the Council is led by the Green Party, with the support of Labour councillors. That’s also true. At the Full Council meeting held on 25th May 2023 which installed the Green Leader of the Council, he was supported by Labour councillors including Cllr Bishop.
“Since I raised this issue publicly, I am pleased that Labour councillors have now joined me and my Conservative councillor colleagues in saying that this huge increase is unacceptable.
“My social media post was designed to ensure the public had a say – I’m glad it was successful.
“On his final point about road maintenance funding, Cllr Bishop is simply wrong.
“As Secretary of State for Transport, I recently announced an extra £8.3 billion for the Country’s roads over the next 11 years.
“That’s £87.9 million for Gloucestershire, with £2.8 million this financial year and the next, improving our roads today and in the future.”