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West Oxfordshire DC has accused the government of blackmail after being told it faces losing grants worth at least ...
West Oxfordshire DC has accused the government of blackmail after being told it faces losing grants worth at least£500,000 unless it stops providing free car parks, according to The Daily Telegraph (p4).

Civil servants advising councils on how to draw up the local transport plans ordered by John Prescott, the environment secretary, have told the authority that free town centre parking conflicts with government policy.

And now the council has discovered that the Government Office for the South East intends to withdraw support for a traffic management strategy in the town of Witney unless they introduce restrictions.

The council's policy of free parking in Witney, Chipping Norton, Burford, Carterton and Eynsham was backed by all local parties until the minority Labour group came out in opposition this month.

Don Seale, who sits on the council - which is run by the Conservatives with the backing of independents - said: 'The car is a lifeline round here. Most villages have two bus services a day at best, and many don't even have a shop.

'The government seems to have a deliberate anti-car policy which aims to make life as difficult as possible for car drivers while providing no alternative means of transport.'

A letter from John Rider, the senior transport planner at the Government Office for the South East, said the authority's transport strategy was 'essentially sound' but added: 'The availability of free parking close to the town centre must be considered as a serious deficiency.'

Proposing a pay and display system and more yellow lines, he said: 'It is important to remember that the size of the allocation [of funding] will to some extent reflect the degree to which the objectives in the plan accurately reflect government policy.'

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