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As from this week most of you will know that council owned CCTV cameras can now be used to film and capture an image of your car at any time. If you are breaking a parking or driving violation you can automatically be issued with a ticket through the post. This is a real result for local councils and they are going to rake it in even more. Not only can they cut back the wage costs of wardens and parking attendants, now titled the more sinister 'Enforcement Officers', the cameras can also flash you when you don't know it. You could be sitting on a double yellow to pick up the misses or drop the kids off, looking out for wardens as per normal, blissfully unaware you have been snapped already and the ticket is on its way two weeks from now. You're still be parked there and not helping to improve traffic flow. Normally you would be long gone when you spot the warden. In this way the council has run up £70 for doing nothing! This stop and drop off culture on yellow is not about wanting to break the rules but to function as a driver. But to the council it's more money for their black hole pension funds. Lets be honest, is there anywhere in town you can drop someone off without breaking a parking violation?
Under the new rules the government have promised to cut back on council wheel-clampers (alas not the private cowboys), sensibly realizing that a clamped car is still going to be blocking or obstructing the access with the clamp on it and it would be better to ticket it and get it away that way. Remember, you guys can now get a ticket if a camera snaps you more than 12 inches away from the curb or your wheels crossing over marked out parking bay white lines. The plus here is that people on double-yellow lines without blue badges will finally be ticketed. Too many traffic wardens are too scared to confront aggressive parkers, preferring to linger around parking bays and controlled zones to get driver not present tick overs. 80% of all parking fines issued are to people who have paid to park. One in ten tickets handed out are deliberate voids, timid wardens trying to keep their jobs by hitting their daily quotas of tickets issued, whilst many more are for alleged un-displayed tickets. The reason they do as they know most drivers won't contest it because of attritional reasons and the threat of bailiffs. It's always worth appealing tickets to the NPAS (National Parking Adjudication Service) as a last resorts as of the ten thousand that made it there 57% were overthrown. It is a postcode lottery though and if you live in the Ribble Valley district then you have a 100% chance of over throwing the ticket if you appeal, where its just 9% in Reigate and Bandstead council in Surrey.
The number handed out has rocketed by 400% in the last five years alone. The total was 794,851 in 2001 and in 2006 it was an incredible 3,402,860 tickets! Brighton retained the top spot last year and so rampant are the wardens there they even ticket peoples cars with blue disabled badges.
The big earn for parking finers are the people who will pay them and so the ones targeted, which is you and me. 45% of all fines in general society are never paid and wardens are savvy to which cars won't produce revenue, so target nice ones, just as cops only pull over certain cars they think will produce a nick. Sure, if you don't care about the rules and park where you like then you should be hammered for fines. But serial offenders are a small majority of offenders, and as with speed-camera offenders, most people fined do it only once and never meant to. In Northampton you have two minutes to get back to your car once your paid time is up. It used to be ten minutes but when parking revenues started to fall and targets weren't hit they reduced the time by 5 minutes and then 8 minutes. Old people and especially parents with small kids and shopping struggle to make it back and when have you ever seen a clock in shops and offices to help you judge the time? And that's why they put the time down to two minutes, hoping you don't get back to the car in time. And with no top-up rules here 45,400 people a year get a ticket from a population of 167,000. The people least likely to pay the fines are the most likely to regularly offend.
Northampton has the most extensive and sophisticated CCTV system in Europe and the most virulent swarm of wardens outside of London. Once drivers got savvy to the wardens methods in the town centre the tickets tumbled and so the council bought twenty mopeds to counter that, sending the wardens out to the 'burbs' to get that money coming back in. They were like mosquitoes, buzzing around quiet streets in the evenings and weekends, looking to ambush slumbering motorists in the leafy suburbs that were about as menacing to traffic flow as Vanessa Feltz is to the diet food rack.
Northampton has been a ticker-tape of parking tickets in the last five years and the operation bought in an astonishing £20 million pounds in just five years. Now drivers go to war with wardens the borough council has handed over control to the county council, who intend to employ private London style parking enforcers, three Nigerian wardens already spotted on the town centre streets in their shiny caps and tunics. For some reason West Africans love being parking wardens. I'm sure they don't sit around the crackling campfire with the village elders in rural Sierra Leone and announce that their dream is to ticket SUVs in Hampstead.
Parking permits are another big earner for councils. After you have painted over every free parking space with yellow lines and the rest with parking bays and meters in the town centre, you can, of course, force everyone to park in the multistories. But what about those annoying environmentally aware drivers who get the bus into town and don't produce car revenues, leaving their vehicles outside their houses, just outside of the parking dead-zone. Well, you introduce parking permits at £20 a year to park outside their houses, of course, and you don't send them reminder letters when the year runs out, so you can automatically fine them £50 plus the twenty for not renewing them!! Which happened to me.
It didn't stop there. Now people were forced on to buses they whacked up those prices too, forcing people back into their cars and running up those parking tickets. The multistory car parks also had their prices rises on the same day the parking ticket schemes were increased, a mutli-pronged attack on the drivers. With all these drivers looking to park legally, congestion increased radically, people, just abandoning their lunch time trip into town that keeps retail profitable in the town centre zone. The town planners responded by making the town centre even more car free with bus zones only. The Peacock Centre, an up market shopping centre in Northampton, now has 13 of its 24 units empty. If you stop the posh people shopping then you have nothing, although it is noticeable that the rather alarming amount of very nice cars on the double yellow lines all seems to have those ambiguous disabled parking permits in the window. Now there's where you need to start to catch the worse parking cheats. When the congestion charge was introduced in London there was a 2000% increasing request for the blue badges, suggesting there is some serious fraud going on there. But to be honest fair play to anyone who uses their relatives badges to beat the parking fascists.
Devil you need to write your next review on the pay meters themselves and just how much "additional" revenue the local councils make from all those over paid fees. I heard that by not giving change at the meter some councils are earning several millions "extra" per year from the over payment alone!
Amazingwoo 21.07.2010 14:55
I once popped into a bakers to buy goodies for visitors - I was 1 minute late back to my car and had a ticket. Those were the most expensive cakes I'd ever bought!!
LawrenceP 18.07.2010 15:20
I once drove through a bus/taxi lane and was immidiately stopped by the police (the bandits were hiding, and waiting) they started being sarcastic by saying, "so you didn't see the big wide grey sign that says buses / taxi's only?" . I said, "obviously not! and by the way while you're standing here another 14 cars have done the same thing, are you taking their numbers down because I don't see a pencil " . The male one answered by swearing at me and throwing me in the back of his car. The whole timein there I was watching out the window saying, "thats 19, 20, oh 22, 23, 24". I was given the choice of a fine or court, I chose court. It was thrown out because I was treated unfairly. I defended myself which made it easier.