Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The camera never lies

Forgive a short meander off the usual overgrown path. But there is a rumbling controversy surrounding allegations that town councils in England use parking fines as a "cash cow". The latest development is that the parliamentary Transport Committee has told councils they should publish annual accounts if they want to disprove, to quote the committee chairman, "the deep-rooted public perception that parking enforcement is used as a cash cow". Now, as regular readers will know, I spend a fair amount of time on the road following overgrown paths. One journey earlier this year took me to Morocco which produced posts including the very pertinent They paved paradise and put up a parking lot. En route from our home in Norfolk to Gatwick Airport we stopped in East Grinstead for a meal. As it was a Wednesday afternoon in early March the town centre car park was almost empty, as can be seen from the accompanying photos which were taken on the day.

When we returned to the car we were astonished to find we had been given a £50 parking fine, despite the car displaying a valid parking ticket. The fine was because the car was "not parked correctly" - see photo below. A resident whose house overlooks the car park came over to commiserate saying that such over-zealousness by parking wardens happens "almost every day".

The £50 fine was reduced to £25 if paid within fourteen days. As we were out of the country for more than two weeks and about to catch a flight we had no alternative but to pay the fine on the spot using a mobile phone. When we returned a stiff complaint and the two photos were sent to Mid Sussex District Council who manage the car park. A few days later we we received grudging notification from the Council that "in the circumstances" the fine was being refunded. The camera never lies and the "deep-rooted public perception that parking enforcement is used as a cash cow" is perfectly justified.

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Mike said...

The beaten up old coin machines which are the only way you can pay for spots in most English municipal car parks are a disgrace too.

I'd also like to see their accounts from revenue raised from their over judicious fining of out of area motorists using video cameras e.g. one unsuspecting moves into an obscured bus lane, and then (because no one will let you back into the regular lane) you get copped for £100 or similar.

Frank H Little said...

I must be one of thousands of non-drivers who contribute to the upkeep of minor roads in this county borough through my council tax. It seems only fair that council-provided car parks should contribute too.

That's not to excuse your unfair treatment in Sussex.

Pliable said...

Frank, you are, of course, quite right, and as someone who lives in a rural area and walks and cycles wherever possible I wish more money was spent on enforcing traffic laws on rural roads.

But what disturbs me particularly about this incident is the subsequent immediate cancellation of the fine. If I had "not parked correctly" why was the fine cancelled? If I had parked correctly why was the fine issued in the first place?

Mid Sussex District Council's handling of the matter conveyed the clear impression that this was a "try on". It was also clear that they did not dispute appeals, but simply raked in a lot of money from people who did not have a camera with them or who did not have the nerve to challenge their authority.

Yes, parking charges are a legitimate and valuable revenue source. But spurious parking fines such as the one documented in my photos are not.