Magazine

Notes from Big Ben …

Another Day, a Different Dollar

By Peter Guest

S­­ometimes I just don’t understand why people behave the way they do. It just seems that given there is a hard way and an easy way to do something, people go all out for the difficult option.
Take the UK’s Royal Mint; they wanted to change the design of some of our coins. No problems there. The logic was, I suspect, simple: The smaller value coins were costing too much to make as world metal prices rise, and by changing the metal composition, the mint would save, well, a mint.
Apparently they consulted on this way back in 2008, and as a result of the response, changed the decision from replacing just two coins (5p and 10p), instead of all four “silver” coins. I do not remember the consultation at all, but perhaps that’s just me. But now this is where it all goes a bit, well, weird. Having had the consultation and listened to and reacted to the comments – which is quite refreshing in a government agency – do the numismatists at the Royal Mint announce their decision in Parliament or call a press conference?
No, they give the decision at an event last November in the Philippines! That’s the Philippines, halfway ‘round the world. So, not surprisingly, not too many people here heard about it. Anyway, the Royal Mint has given more than a year’s notice of the new coins and has been supplying sample coins to machine manufacturers to help them set up equipment for the change.
Notwithstanding this, there are claims from some in the parking industry that the change will cost “up to £100m” to implement. I think someone is taking the p***. Typically, coin acceptors can distinguish between 15 or more different coins, and setting a new coin takes seconds.
I cannot envisage a responsible parking operation where there has not been a routine maintenance visit to every machine in the last year where the upgrade could be installed. Methinks they doth protest too much.
Why Council Parking is Despised (1)
Local authorities here in the UK are often criticized for operating parking just to make money. They deny it, of course, but stories like the next one do not help their credibility.
Wandsworth Borough Council is enforcing a bus stop outside Clapham South tube station using a CCTV camera. On an average day, 23 motorists are given a £100 penalty charge for stopping at the bus stop. One driver got four tickets in four days for stopping to drop off a passenger for the tube. But – and it’s a big but – the Information Commissioner requires that where there is video surveillance in a public place, there should be signs telling the public this.
Wandsworth erected no such signs when the camera was installed, although they have now bowed to pressure and rather belatedly obeyed the rules. Two points: First, if the rules say there should be signs, then none of the tickets issued pre signs are legal and should be refunded. Second, the act that gives Wandsworth the powers to do all this requires that they should “have regard for ... the desirability of securing and maintaining reasonable access to premises.” If more than 20 vehicles a day are stopping there, perhaps Wandsworth needs to look again at whether or not they have adequately discharged this duty?
Why Council Parking is Despised (2)
In a similar situation, a section of Green Lanes in the London Borough of Haringey produces 33 tickets a day, making it the most ticketed section of road in England. I believe that drivers have a duty to read and understand the regulations that apply, but here the rules are different on different sides of the road, and signage is apparently contradictory with three sets of rules posted. In total, there are 16 different sets of regulations signed in the mile and a half street; and in places, one set of rules is on the signs with something different on the meters.
Bearing in mind the Borough’s duty to have regard for the need to access premises, it is perhaps a little disappointing to see that parking is banned 5-7 p.m. on Saturday, the peak shopping time for the local Turkish community.
I suspect this is a classic case of “mission creep.” Original regulations were altered and refined as circumstances changed, and as the situation became more and more complex, no one took a step back and looked at the bigger picture. The situation is the inevitable consequence, and disappointingly, the Borough seems in no hurry to sort out the unfortunate but very lucrative, to them, mess. Tell me again why we don’t need a parking regulator in the UK?
One for You, JVH
Carmarthenshire County Council in Wales is planning to introduce charges for disabled drivers in their car parks. Currently, there are free disabled parking spaces in the Council’s car parks, where the maximum charge for a day’s parking is about $2. But faced with the government’s 25% cut in its funding, the Council has decided to remove the free disabled concession and expects to raise an extra $100,000 as a result.
There are two minor problems they may not have considered. One, disabled drivers have the right to park on the street outside the car park for free, which might simply move the “blue badge” holder from a free and unobstructive parker in the car park to a free and potentially obstructive parker on the street outside. Two, if the meters cannot be used by all disabled drivers, the Council is in breach of the Disability Discrimination Act, which could cost them $100,000!
Still, I am sure the Council has thought of these issues. You think?
Peter Guest is Parking Today’s correspondent for all things British and European. He can be reached at peterguestparking@hotmail.co.uk.

Article Abstract from November, 2010




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