Driving us crazy

PUBLISHED: 10:08 20 December 2007 | UPDATED: 14:57 20 February 2013

Parking fines rocket

Parking fines rocket

It's an issue likely to get even the most level-headed among us hot under the collar...

FORTY FOUR years ago, a Sussex farmer called Peter Hicks rigged up 2,000 volts of electricity through his Land Rover to try to stop traffic wardens slapping tickets on his car.


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Peter used to sell his produce in London's
Covent Garden market and parking his lorries and Land Rover at the site meant he was getting tickets nearly every day and paying about £30 a week in fines. Peter's crazy device did land him in trouble with the police (when one of them heard a strange ticking noise emanating from his vehicle) although he was eventually cleared of committing any offence.

'Traffic wardens have since been elevated to No 1 public hate figure'

So although you may look back on (or imagine that) the Sixties were relatively trouble-free when it came to traffic wardens, not so. Parking controls were introduced to London in 1958 and two years later traffic wardens made their first appearance on the streets of the capital.
Traffic wardens have since been elevated to No 1 public hate figure, with 31 police forces issuing body armour to traffic wardens in the year 2000 after a spate of attacks from angry drivers.

But councils are quick to point out how valuable a service the parking attendants provide, with Mid-Sussex district council even going so far as to say that they function as community 'eyes and ears', able to spot and alert the police to trouble on the streets. Other councils, such as Lewes, see parking restrictions as a way to reduce traffic movement in the town: "People don't have to drive around as much to find parking spaces now. When there were no controls, people were parking in spaces all day so there were rarely any free. Obviously, this is bad for commerce," says a council spokesperson.

According to the council, traffic rose in Lewes for every year of the three years before the controlled parking scheme was installed in 2005. It has fallen in each of the two full years since the installation, despite rising traffic nationally, and is now lower than it was in 2002/3.
In other areas, such as Chichester, on- street parking enforcement is not yet a council function, it's still managed by the police and enforced by their traffic wardens. Both Mid-Sussex and Horsham councils, however, gained the powers to issue fines in January 2006. In Midhurst this led to the number of wardens increasing from three to 13.

The next area in line for Local Authority Parking Enforcement (LAPE) is Adur (covering Shoreham, Lancing, Sompting, Southwick, Steyning and Fishersgate), with the council planning to take over in September 2008. According to
Adur council leader Neil Parker, "anarchy is reigning supreme across Adur" because of the lack of traffic wardens. He says: "I can only see wardens having a positive impact on trade because often delivery vehicles cannot park near the shops due to cars parked there illegally."

Council managed wardens were introduced to Worthing in September 2007 and the blue uniformed officers, nicknamed 'bluebottles', are now a frequent sight around the town. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the number of tickets given out has risen, and the figures seem to agree: In 2006,
Sussex police gave out 13,506 fines in the town, but for the first full month the council were in charge (October), 3,816 fines were given. If multiplied by 12 months, this would give the council an annual figure of nearly 46,000 fines, nearly four times as many as the police.

The police also cancelled more tickets on appeal. Of the 13,506 fines they issued, 1,001 were revoked (7.4 per cent). Of the 3,816 fines given out by Worthing council in October there were 1,518 appeals, but so far only 222 have been cancelled (5.8 per cent). The council insist that any tickets wrongly allocated leads to the contractor being penalised.

But Jack Phillips, who works in Worthing, moved his car from one short stay parking bay to another after the allocated two hours was up, but received a parking ticket anyway: "I am shocked and appalled by the incompetence of the West Sussex parking team. I couldn't believe I had a ticket as I knew I had done nothing wrong, and when I questioned another warden about it he said it should never have been issued."

One council with a difference is Eastbourne borough. They have struck out on their own by refusing to enforce paid-for parking in the town. Local Authority Parking Enforcement was supposed to be introduced there on October 8 last year, but following a victory over the county council, it won't be introduced.

The recently-installed pay and display machines, worth £700,000, will now be left switched off. Council leader David Tutt says: "At the moment pay to park is not on the agenda so this is good news ... I won't be happy if the county tries at a later stage to introduce pay to park." Tutt continues: "The reasons for this are that Eastbourne is a high cost but low wage economy. Eastbourne borough council is opposing the county's plans and supporting local people."
Motorists who park illegally on yellow lines or in resident and disabled bays will still be fined and car parks in the town will still charge a fee.

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