Mike Waters' blog: 23 February 2010 - Common sense would prove popular
23 February 2010
Mike Waters is senior insight & consultancy manager at Arval, the leading vehicle leasing and fleet management company.
Throughout towns and cities across the country, finding somewhere safe and legal to park can be a hassle. With more vehicles on the road it feels like there are less spaces to park in, especially at peak time, and when you can find a space the cost can be high.
Frustrations boiled over in Swindon recently when a professional clown didn't see the funny side of fines he has been handed totalling nearly £500 for an initial parking charge of £35. Claiming to have already paid the first fine and with the prospect of losing his car having major implications on his livelihood, he is threatening to storm the council offices in full costume as a protest.
Drivers also get their backs up when they hear about traffic wardens focussing on targets rather than fairness. A leaked memo from the country's biggest parking enforcer complained that staff were not issuing enough tickets. When wardens face disciplinary action should they fall behind on targets, it is clear that they will favour revenue and volumes ahead of fair enforcement.
Under the shadow of such commercialism it came as a relief to hear Westminster City Council announce a programme of what it calls 'soft enforcement' whereby some motorists who park illegally in the Borough could receive written or verbal warnings rather than a fine.
Predicted to deal with around 20% of their parking offences, the Council will be more charitable with minor transgressions such as a first-time offender marginally overstaying at a parking bay. However, this does not mean letting drivers run riot as those who park on double yellow lines, pedestrian crossings or cause an obstruction will still face the madatory £120 fine.
There's also some science behind the proposals to ensure a level of consistency when dealing with offending drivers. Parking attendants will use handheld computers that will provide guidance as to whether they should issue a ticket to an illegally parked car, based on the type of offence committed, the location and any previous tickets issued.
If councils want to retain good relationships with drivers, which lets face it they need if they are to encourage shoppers into the town centres, a common sense approach seems to be the right one. Don't get me wrong, drivers should be punished if they break the rules, especially on a consistent basis, but for drivers who are already under pressure from a wide range of costs, a little margin for error is something to be welcomed.