MLA accused of “falling short” on parking charges

A LOCAL MLA has been accused of not doing enough to reduce or scrap the parking charges due to be brought in to the town centre early next month.

Jo-Anne Dobson, a party colleague of the Minister over roads and car parks, was accused of “falling short” on what traders and customers want to hear about the 40p per hour charges.

Fellow MLA Sydney Anderson saidthe new charges could be detrimental to the town centre.

“Lying at the core of this issue is the fact that Jo-Anne Dobson was recently appointed to what in essence is the role of Junior Minister in the very department that is implementing this threat to Banbridge town centre,” said the DUP MLA. Responding to a statement from Mrs Dobson following a meeting with Banbridge Chamber of Trade, Mr Anderson said her words failed to reassure those who will undoubtedly be affected by the charges.

He said, “For her to simply now say that she will undertake only to inform the Minister of the views of local traders falls very far short of what is needed at this time. We don’t need a courier to pass on information on behalf of hard pressed local traders.

“Jo-Anne Dobson was careful in her public statement to make sure that she gave no undertaking to urge a rethink on the part of the Minister. She gave no commitment to actively campaign for a reduction in these charges or for their scrapping.”

The Stormont Assembly member urged Mrs Dobson to do more to help traders and customers in the current economic climate.

“We need more than what she gave,” he said. “These additional charges are the latest blow to town centres like Banbridge. They are the latest blow to hard pressed families and local traders forced to operate in incredibly difficult economic circumstances. They could drive shoppers away from the town centre and force more retailers into closure.”

Responding to the criticism Mrs Dobson said the DUP are as much to blame for the Executive’s financial deficit.

“Mr Anderson needs to remember that he voted for a budget last year which left the gaping hole in the DRD Budget, a budget which I and my Ulster Unionist colleagues opposed.

“He knew the facts, and the consequences of this funding gap, yet he still voted for the budget. His approach now is neither helpful nor constructive and smacks of political opportunism.”

The UUP woman also defended her position as the Minister’s Assembly Private Secretary.

“These decisions were made inevitable by the budget and therefore taken before I was appointed to the role of Assembly Private Secretary. Since recently taking up this post I have attended meetings with both Chamber of Commerce members from Portadown and Banbridge. Their views have been directly reported to The Minister and a number of their constructive suggestions are being considered by DRD.”

Mrs Dobson urged her Stormont colleague to use his influence with DUP minister Sammy Wilson to obtain more funding.

“Instead of standing on the sidelines Mr Anderson should join with me in lobbying his colleague, the DUP Finance Minister, who controls the purse strings of Stormont for more funding so that charging issues can be addressed in the future and to give our local traders further support, including relieving the pressure of rates.”

Meanwhile a local businessman has blasted both political parties for Wwho he said are “more concerned about scoring points off each other” than trying to have the proposed charges scrapped.

“The DUP and UUP in Banbridge nowadays seem to fight each other harder than they ever fought Sinn Fein,” said the man.

“What we don’t need is our politicians posing for endless pictures in the local press highlighting any little victory in the hope it will win them more votes.

“What we do need is for them to work harder and work together on the big issues facing Banbridge, not least these parking charges.”