Ealing Parking Services' Permitgate 'Scandal'

Council deny over-the-counter service ever existed

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Residents disappointment at hearing that Ealing Council was not longer issuing parking permits over-the-counter turned to amazement when they were told that the service never actually existed.

In a little publicised move the parking services reception is to move to the Ealing Customer Services Customer service centre (that is how they describe it) at Perceval House in central Ealing. This the Council claim moves the service to a 'high quality facility in a central location'.

Ealing Council's web site states the following “Our reception will be a payments centre only. We will no longer process permit, visitor voucher or dispensation applications over the counter. Please note, as of 2 April 2007 we have started using our new processes in reception and we no longer process any applications (except dispensations) over the counter.”

Seen by many as the most quick and reliable way to get vouchers and renew permits at short notice, where had the over the counter service gone?

“We have never offered an over the counter permit service and the application form makes this clear,” stated a council spokesperson. “We have made specific exemptions to this where there was a valid reason to but this was not normal practice. All applicants are given at least four weeks notice of permit renewals. If an applicant applies late they may purchase a seven day dispensation. We currently turn all applications round in three working days."

But many local people are convinced they could get vouchers and permits over the counter. “I can absolutely definitely confirm that until this month residents' parking permit discs were issued over the counter,” said an Ealing resident. “Earlier this year I had to get a previous change of vehicle on my current permit, and the counter staff member who took my payment over the counter apologised for inability to issue the new disc over the counter because their computer system was down that day. She gave me a free pink dispensation sheet to cover me meanwhile, and assured me the new disc would be posted out the next working day.

“They used to just feed the special pre-printed sheets containing the disc into their computer printer to add the vehicle details. So the Council 'spokesperson' is wrong, be it through ignorance or deliberate cover-up. In any case, if over-the-counter issue has not been standard practice, why has the Council deemed it necessary to inform us that this has now ceased?”

Whether or not permits were ever issued over the counter, the matter has raised questions on the whole service provided. Another resident of Ealing described his concerns. “I'd like to know basically the truth,” he said. “Frankly it doesn't inspire confidence when the people running the system don't even know how it works. We know that you used to be able to do it, what's shocking is that they don't know themselves. "

Many residents had previously used the over-the-counter service to guarantee that they had a valid permit. Residents of Bedford Park zone B had often found that even though they had applied for renewals by post within the stipulated time they had not arrived before the old permit had expired and therefore they had received Penalty Charge Notices.

April 22, 2007