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Notes from Big Ben...

The Redcoats Are Coming

Peter Guest

Many years ago, someone asked why the standard British army uniform included a red tunic. The answer from an old soldier was: “so it doesn’t show the blood!” I was reminded of this in Belfast, where I attended the launch of the city’s new parking enforcement program. NCP, the UK’s biggest parking company, has taken over parking enforcement from the police.
The last time I was in Belfast, it was a war zone, and it certainly has changed for the better. However, I couldn’t help but think that for the people who are going to be issuing parking tickets in areas that, some say, are still run by terrorists, being given a red uniform wasn’t a good move. We shall see. A picture of them is nearby.

John’s Been to London Again
Our blessed leader has been over to London again and was kind enough to buy his humble servant lunch in a pub on the Kings Road in Chelsea. (Thank you, John.) It had been a long time since I was in that part of London. I did my first degree there a zillion years ago, and it was interesting to see what had changed and what remained the same. The micro miniskirt is alive and well in Kings Road, but sadly, I am reaching an age where I am not sure why this is a good thing any more. Still, it was nice to visit my youth for a short while.
John commented on a motorcycle getting a parking ticket in London. It’s rather annoying when you park your car correctly and when you come back, you can’t get out because somebody has taken up your maneuvering space with a scooter, instead of using the free (yes, free) motorcycle bay up the road. Will the guy on the scooter pay the £100 fine when your time runs out? I think not.

Mine’s Bigger Than Yours
So Sydney issues a ticket every 42 seconds. Big deal. In London, we do it every 6 seconds, but that’s nothing compared with Seoul, South Korea. I met some guys from there recently, and they told me that they issue 10 million tickets a year, or about one every 3 seconds. The bad news is that because the law is defective, only about 100,000 get paid.
Here’s a thought: Either change the law, buy some wheel clamps or stop wasting your time. Free consultancy, whatever, next.

Save the Planet, Hug a Porsche
Richmond Council in South West London has just launched proposals to change the way it charges residents for street parking. Here in the UK, the council can reserve street space for local residents who buy a permit to use it. Up to now, the charge has always been the same whatever the car, but Richmond propose that the charge should reflect the environmental friendliness of the car. People with an electric car get free parking; the Porsche owner pays three times the current charge. So far, so good, and as John said in a recent blog, someone with a $100,000 Porsche really is not going to change to a Prius because they have to pay about a dollar a day more to park. However, if the council is serious and really wants to use the permit price to try to influence car choice, why didn’t it make it $1,000 or $10,000? That would work.
The citizens get to have their say on the scheme in the next few weeks; meanwhile, the only dissenting voice seems to have come from the Tory Party. (They are the ones whose leader showed his green credentials by riding a bike to work – forgetting to mention that his Range Rover was following behind him with his briefcase and suit.)

Lowlife
We had a conference here recently on the “Blue Badge.” That’s the windscreen sticker that people with a mobility problem caused by a disability can get to have parking concessions. The scheme’s not perfect, but the biggest problemis that able-bodied people abuse the scheme in large numbers. Edinburgh, for example, said that it had found that 70% of the users were not entitled to the privilege. It’s bad enough that people will borrow a relative’s badge to save a few dollars on parking. But we have badges being stolen, counterfeited, and used by people who inherited them from dead relatives. We even have Web sites to sell phony blue badges.
Up until now, the police have been reluctant to get involved, but research has shown that the sort of people who abuse this system tend to be “wanted” for other things. Criminologists call it self-identifying behavior; and the police are beginning to realize that if they put time into checking the badges, they get a bonus from clearing up other more serious crimes.

Houston, We Have a Problem, and It’s a Big One
I think I mentioned before that we recently had a court case where a city was held to have issued parking tickets that were invalid because they didn’t have the right date on them. The ticket showed the “date of the offense,” but the courts ruled that, because the whole legal process that followed was on a timetable that started when the ticket was issued, the ticket must show the “date of issue.” Most times, the two dates would be the same, but the High Court determined that the distinction was fundamental to the law and that any ticket not showing the date of issue was simply not valid. Some councils picked up on the issue and corrected their tickets; some simply canceled all their outstanding tickets and started again. However, others with a clear death wish have continued to issue “illegal” tickets. Hey, guys, it’s called contempt of court; you can go to jail! But the real kick is in the tail. The court’s full judgment has now been published, and wording within it could be interpreted to mean that none of the millions of tickets issued and paid without the date of issue were ever valid, and so the councils that issued them have no right to the billions of dollars they collected. Oh boy!

Best Insult Ever?
I recently heard someone described by a third party who clearly did not like him as “an oxygen thief.”

Article Abstract from December, 2006




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