Apcoa, Walmart, ‘Mr. Bumble,’ And ‘The Big Bang Theory’
Howard Metzenbaum and “Ted” Bonda founded the Airport Parking Co. Of America in Cleveland in 1949. Wind the clock forward 60 odd years, and with several changes of ownership, and Stuttgart, Germany-based Apcoa AG has something over 860,000 parking spaces and 4,500 staff working in 15 countries.
Only trouble was that last year the company was facing meltdown, with debt repayments due and the cupboard just about empty.
I understand that under German law, if a company missed a deadline, it could be forced into receivership. However – and I do not understand this at all – Apcoa, a German company, managed to persuade the UK High Court that it, the UK court, had jurisdiction. Hence, Apcoa could have a UK “Schemes of Arrangement” between it and its lenders, sanctioned by the court, extending the timescale to resolve the issues.
On the plus side, most of those owed money seemed to be willing participants in what, to an outsider, looks like a legal sleight-of-hand.
Anyhow, this has allowed the two sides to reach a consensus on a financial arrangement that reduced Apcoa’s debt by nearly $520 million and provided $95 million of new funding for the future development of the business.
A number of other major players in the European parking market haven’t exactly been living “high on the hog” recently, and I wonder just what would have happened if Apcoa had gone under. The phrase “house of cards” comes to mind.
Walmart, another import from your green and pleasant land, a few years ago took over one of the UK’s biggest retailers, Asda. It’s not exactly “flavor of the month” in the fair town of Chorley in Lancashire at the moment.
The council gave permission for a new town center store, provided that Asda charged parkers. The rationale was that if the parking were free, then it would attract fee-paying parkers from the surrounding – and, I suspect, council-owned – public carparks.
The store opened back in October, and Asda did install paystations. Trouble is, it hasn’t switched them on. Asda said it uses license plate recognition (LPR) to stop its carpark from being used by local workers. The council said Asda doesn’t and needs to comply with the agreement.
Ultimately, the council can close down the store, and it seems to me counter-productive of Asda to pick this fight.
I think it was a character in one of Dickens’ plays – “Mr. Bumble” the beadle, in “Oliver Twist,” I think – who said: “The law is an ass. ...” And a recent court ruling over access to a bus would seem to support this.
The UK’s Equality Act 2010 is a potentially powerful piece of legislation. It pulled together a number of other laws, including the Disability Discrimination Act, and basically says that people must be treated fairly and equally wherever and whenever possible.
All bets are off, however, as a result of a ruling in the Court of Appeal concerning a wheelchair-user’s right to ride a bus. Wheelchair-user Doug Paulley attempted to use a bus in Leeds, but was turned away because another passenger would not move out of the wheelchair space.
Virtually all buses in the UK are now wheelchair-accessible, and the bus in question was fully accessible.
Paulley, saying the bus company should have enforced its own rules, took it to court for breaching the Equalities Act, and won. However, on appeal, the court ruled that the bus company is not obliged to enforce access to the disabled space if other selfish passengers don’t want to shift.
What’s this got to do with parking?
Helen Dolphin of Disabled Motoring UK sees the parallel in that if carpark operators are not obliged to stop able-bodied people from using spaces set aside for disabled motorists, then the disabled may in effect be denied access to services and facilities that are accessible to the rest of us.
The case is being further appealed.
It seems to me a simple matter for the bus company, or the carpark operator, to have a rule in their conditions-of-use saying disabled spaces are for people with disabilities, and if you breach this rule, you get off the bus or leave the carpark.
We have an election in May, and the politicking started almost before the brandy had gone out on the Christmas pudding. The outcome, as I have said before, is hard to call.
The three-party status quo has been shattered by a combination of resurgent nationalist parties in Scotland and Wales, plus the “new” UK Independence Party, which is seeming more and more like a plot line from a Mel Brooks movie, as its foot–in–mouth moments are almost becoming too numerous to report.
However, the Conservatives, the major part of our current coalition government, seem to be trying to challenge them for stupid.
With great gravitas, they published a tome that set out in great depth the supposed disastrous financial consequences of the Labour (main opposition) party’s economic policies. The figures had been audited by the independent Civil Service Office of Budget Responsibility, and showed how the feckless socialists would wreck the economy.
One small problem, though: The Labour party hasn’t published an economic plan or announced any policies. The tome was the Tories’ interpretation of what Labour intended to do; i.e., they made it up.
However, this pales into insignificance compared with their latest wizard idea.
People get cancer, and each year some people die because their doctors do not recognize the problem soon enough and get them tested and into treatment.
The solution is simple, says our leaders. Instead of going to see a doctor, people who think they might have cancer can self-refer themselves to hospital oncology departments for diagnosis.
Do I need to explain this any further? Think “Sheldon Cooper” in “The Big Bang Theory” TV show.
Peter Guest, a Consultant in the UK, is PT’s Editor-at-Large on all things British, European, Middle Eastern and Indian. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.