|Henny Penny the world is falling on my head!|
Lynne Featherstone's parking investigation stirs up major hoo-ha
I was pretty sure that an investigation by the London Assembly's Transport Committee into parking enforcement in London would be of interest to residents.
However I had no concept of quite the extent of the hoo-ha that would follow the public announcement of it. 'Can' and 'worms' are the words that spring to mind - particularly judging by the veiled and not so veiled threats I hear whispered from corners of our capital about the temerity of the London Assembly in deciding to examine this issue.
All I can say is the more authorities object to us looking at something, the more I might believe they may have something to hide. It will be interesting to see!
Working as a local councillor for the last six or so years - and now in my fourth year as Chair of Transport at the Assembly (and one as vice-chair), parking disputes have registered heavily in my post bag.
There are two main types of complaint. First - where the process of ticketing, charging or clamping appears to have gone wrong or been unfair. Second - where local residents, whilst wanting schemes to resolve traffic flow issues, are concerned that councils' parking charges and penalties may have more to do with raising revenue than solving problems.
For someone like myself who believes that traffic shouldn't be left to a "free for all" on the roads, but that it needs managing, it's important for such measures to have public support. I want people to comply and pay their charges and their penalty notices - and I want councils to use the revenue on improving local schemes, not for subsidising their other activities. (Although in theory there are legal restrictions on this, that doesn't necessarily stop it happening in practice).
But that's all at risk if schemes aren't fair or are being misused to raise money. It brings the system into disrepute, risks non-compliance and makes life miserable for the well-behaved.
If it is all fair and above board then local councils don't have anything to fear from this investigation. And if motorists are cheering believing somehow that parking restrictions are under attack - they are wrong too. The Assembly is neither friend nor foe - this is a quest for effectiveness and fairness. My hope is that we will be able to make recommendations that will help Londoners, not necessarily by naming and shaming - but perhaps by applauding and rewarding those that do it well. I am, after all, an optimist.
One surprise already. When we originally decided on this investigation, I asked the staff at the GLA to check out what work had been done previously on parking in London - so we didn't just duplicate it. The answer came - virtually none.
We will not only be looking at local councils - we are also looking at Transport for London's enforcement of red routes. We will be also examining whether there is any room for harmonisation between boroughs. Boroughs argue that they need to vary the details of schemes to suit their own areas. But we have a plethora of different times, different signs, different charges and different penalties. These often cause confusion for people driving around London. Is all this variation really necessary? We shall see...
And we will be looking at the money. Are boroughs using parking schemes to raise revenue? And if they are - is that their fault, or the fault of the financial rules and restrictions they operate under?
Since the announcement of the plans, calls and emails are flooding in both from individuals and organisations. I am keen to get the maximum amount of evidence from across London. So if there are views you have, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or write to - Parking Review (Paul Watling), City Hall, Queen's Walk, London SE1 2AA.
October 8, 2004