Tonight I shall risk incurring the wrath of fellow elected members across the political divide by letting the world into a hitherto little-known secret. That is, that for the last few days a major e-mail debate has been raging amongst councillors and officers over the use - past, present and possible future - of the Members' Car Park at Hounslow Civic Centre.
Conservative, Labour and ICG councillors have all entered the fray. Unconfirmed rumours abound - Labour wants to turn it into a Labour-only car park, giving parking spaces to members of factions in exchange for committee posts (reportedly a little extra space will be provided for members with large families from the west of the borough). The Conservatives want to sell it off for development. The Liberal Democrats are believed to be considering abstaining.
It would appear that prior to 1986 the small patch of tarmac currently known as the Members' Car Park was for the use of emergency vehicles only. It was subsequently annexed under the then Labour administration, evidently with the tacit agreement of the emergency services or at least with nary a voice raised by them in protest.
The problem is that, being in very close proximity to the Civic Centre entrance, it has also become a convenient place in which to locate unsightly skips and removal vehicles whenever an office manager decides to have a clear out. Sometimes those concerned forget to notify the members, whose car park it now is, leading to much wailing and gnashing of teeth*.
Some very strident positions have been adopted, in some cases it must be said by those with the least to gain from adopting them. The debate, originally about the siting of skips, has now spilled over into one on the much loftier issue of whether there in fact ought to be a Members' Car Park at all or, if there should, whether it ought to be located somewhere different.
With councillors unable to reach any kind of consensus on this all-important subject, it strikes me that this is the kind of issue which ought to be fought out in the public arena, with members of the public having the opportunity to partake in the discussion. Pending the launch of a YouGov survey, please feel free to use the comments section at the foot of this post to let us have your views.
* Acknowledgements: Matthew 13:42.