Coalition relations are fairly harmonious at the moment. There is, though, a wee row brewing that embodies the different ways in which the two Coalition parties think about the world.
Norman Baker, the Lib Dem Transport Minister, wants to allow all councils to charge London levels of parking penalties. Baker see this as localism, allowing councils flexibility. Tories — led by Eric Pickles and Philip Hammond — see it as a ‘stealth tax’ which will allow lazy councils to balance the books by fleecing the motorist rather than making their services more efficient. They complain that if Baker gets his way, parking fines could rise by 29 per cent across the country.
Pickles, who in the words of one colleague is ‘obsessed with bins and parking’, also worries that higher parking fines will deter people from shopping in town centres. Instead, they’ll be driven to out of town shopping complexes with large car parks. This would undercut the work the government is trying to do to revive the high street.
I understand that Tory ministers are confident that they’ll succeed in blocking this change. But I suspect this won’t go down well with the Liberal Democrats’ councillor base.