Once upon a time, the Conservatives were supposedly pro-business and pro-car.
And the Greens were supposedly charming but not very good with money and anti-car.
Well, in Rochford we have to do things differently.
So the leader of the Green party, Michael Hoy, is an accountant who suggested how the district council could save money,but was ignored. And he voted in favour of keeping free car parking on Saturday afternoons.
And of course it was the Conservative leadership that ended free parking on Saturday afternoons, making themselves look anti-business, anti-car and not very good with money.
The latest twist is that councillors have just had letters from Mr Iain McGeoch, OBE, chairman of M&Co , also known as Mackays Stores Ltd
Here’s part of the letter:
INTRODUCTION OF SATURDAY AFTERNOON PARKING CHARGES IN RAYLEIGH
I own and run M&Co and our store has been one of the larger retail stores in Rayleigh for many years.
Your decision to introduce parking charges on Saturday afternoon in Rayleigh will be detrimental to the long term prosperity of the town’s shopping , and shows little understanding of retail dynamics in 2014……..
…..Your plan to charge for parking after 1pm will definitely deter customers from returning to shop in Rayleigh later on Saturdays, resulting in a very significant reduction in spending in the town on Saturday afternoons. If customers have already paid for parking in another shopping location they will not want to spend more on new parking charges in Rayleigh. Customers react to changes like this and shopping patterns will change and would not easily revert if the charges were stopped sometime after they were introduced. If stores take less money, then as a consequence less staff will be employed. Over time you will see a decline in the peripheral shopping and more empty shops…..
I urge you very strongly not to damage Rayleigh’s Saturday afternoon shopping potential by this damaging action and properly support the rate paying stores in Rayleigh.
Iain McGeoch OBE
There is still time for the Tory leadership to see sense and keep free Saturday afternoon parking. There may be problems with the council’s constitution in officially reversing this foolish decision, but there are ways around this. Just announce that as a special spring and summer promotion, free parking on Saturday afternoons will be granted for the next 26 weeks . (in the same way that we have free parking on Saturdays before Christmas). That would give us time to constitutionally reverse this.
By the way, you probably haven’t heard of Mr Iain McGeoch before. Which isn’t surprising – according to this article in Retail Week he keeps a very low profile. But he is a very successful businessman with a good understanding of High Streets. This emphasises just how bloomin’ awful the District Council has been to prompt a letter like this. Retail Week wrote:
The Scottish fashion tycoon typically keeps his profile lower than the Dead Sea. Although a regular at some industry functions, he is able to walk into a room, down the high street or into one of his shops without drawing the curious stares that would greet some of his more showy peers.
But McGeoch is one of the richest men in retail. Value fashion retailer M&Co, which is family owned and run by him, has made him a Sunday Times Rich List fixture. He and his brother Lennie – now no longer involved in M&Co – are valued at £107m.
McGeoch’s avoidance of publicity – there are no photographs of him available and he did not want to be interviewed – reflects a modest and understated style. While engaging and good company in private, he has not allowed himself to be built up as a personality in the industry.
He put plenty of elbow grease into building up M&Co, which was originally a pawnbroker founded in 1834. He jokes that at one time he knew every AA man between Birmingham and Glasgow, such was the time that he spent on the road scouting new locations. His travels took him in the main to market towns and secondary locations overlooked by, or not of interest to, bigger retailers such as the supermarkets that have since carved out positions in value fashion.
So thank you, Mr McGeoch, for taking the trouble to write a letter that confirms what Lib Dems, Greens, Rochford Residents and rebel Conservatives have thought – you can say it with more authority than we can.