Rip off government, local style

A reader of this site contacted me yesterday to give an example of rip off local government. Venturing into deepest Camden, the people’s very own borough, our blogger parked on a single yellow line on a Sunday. There was no parking sign nearby to inform drivers of the hours of operation of the single and double yellows. Common practise elsewhere implied that evenings and Sundays would be free to park. The car was parked neatly, well out of the way of through traffic on a road which was wide enough to take the parked vehicles. There were several cars parked.

Forty five minutes later on return, the car had gone, towed away on Council orders. The cost was £260 to get the vehicle back, as well as the lost time and frustration at having to prove identity of ownership, show a driving licence and all the rest to comply with the fearsome regulations for return of your car. This would be a major financial blow to many caught out in this way, representing the best part of a week’s pay after tax for anyone on average earnings or below.

There are some common features here of jobsworth Councils behaving very badly towards visitors or to local voters trying to use their cars. First, why can’t the rules and conditions be more clearly displayed? So often I search for the rules, only to give up and drive on because they are not on display or if they are they are ambiguous or unclear. Second, why does a wide street have to be restricted on a Sunday where in most places there is a more tolerant attitude? Third, why does a Council have to waste so much time and effort taking a car away when it is not causing an obstruction to the highway? Fourth, why do the penalties for a minor infringement have to be so huge? Surely a fine five to ten times the cost of the parking in an equivalent area requiring payment would be more than enough?

I invite you all who have seen this type of motorist mugging in action to bombard the Chief Executives of the Councils concerned. They doubtless have their own carefully reserved free parking place right in the centre of their towns and boroughs, paid for by the very taxpayers they are busily setting up and milking in this way.

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20 Comments

  1. Johnny Norfolk
    Posted August 19, 2009 at 6:30 am | Permalink

    These councils and their attitude is unbearable. They do not serve us any more its the other way round.

  2. Mick Anderson
    Posted August 19, 2009 at 6:43 am | Permalink

    It’s all about the money – the more cash they take from us, the more people they can hire to take cash from us. The more money they have to burn, the more they can enjoy throwing their weight around….

    I have seen the mirror image of this tow-away story – an alley just off Regent Street in London, so narrow that two cars can’t pass each other. Someone had stopped to unload a cumbersome parcel, presumably causing them to be out of sight of the vehicle for a moment, so they clamped the car. That’s what incentivised penalties do for you.

    The theory (and common sense) says that if the parking restrictions are not clearly indicated, thay have to back down and return your car without penalty. Presumably they will keep your car during the appeal, and charge storage for it. Using the so-called “checks and balances” of the system could easily be a £1000 gamble taking weeks, and they’re going to make it just as hard as they possibly can to let you appeal.

    My stepson has had to start claiming JSA thanks to the Governments mishandling of the economy, and that £260 represents more than a months worth of the £62.50 they pay each week.

    Fortunately, out here in the styxx, there is free parking near anywhere, if you are prepared to walk a bit. The Job Centre seem to be insisting that he attends lessons every couple of weeks (as part of signing on) for really advanced job application lessons. The last one was in how to address an envelope (no, I’m not joking).

    I’ve nothing against the idea of helping people with their hunt for employment, but pitching it to the applicant seems like a really basic thing to be doing. But that would put the educationally challenged lecturer out of work, wouldn’t it? If that’s the best they have to offer, perhaps he’d be better off spending the wasted morning looking for a job….?

    To those who say use public transport to go and sign on – that’s far more expensive than using the car for this particular journey. The Job Centre is fifteen miles away.

  3. DominicJ
    Posted August 19, 2009 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    £260 is a weeks take home pay for someone who earns £16,750.

    £16,750 is a pretty reasonable wage for those of us who couldnt afford university.
    Its SEVEN working days pay for a person earning £6 an hour.

  4. APL
    Posted August 19, 2009 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    JR: “A reader of this site contacted me yesterday ..”

    Your correspondent might do well to contact Mr Herron.

    http://neilherron.blogspot.com/

    My wife/we have been ripped off by our local authority just recently. She had parked the car IN A PERMIT HOLDERS BAY – we have a current residents permit.

    The bay in question was next to a refuse bin bay. The front drivers wheel was an inch – 2.5 cm over the edge of the bay nearest the curb and on the side of the refuse bin.

    Bang! £60. In addition to the residents permit parking fee.

    There was no obstruction and no possibility that refuse collection would be impeded.

  5. Robert K, Oxford
    Posted August 19, 2009 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    Single yellow line parking must be one of the best wheezes councils can employ to squeeze extra revenue out of unwary motorists. I rarely park on them because it is very unusual for the permitted times to be clearly displayed – i.e. it’s not just Camden where there is a problem.
    Out of curiosity I have just checked the Camden council website and this is what its benighted residents have to contend with when figuring out where to leave their car. The council has created the following parking bays:
    business bays ; car club bays ; diplomats (sic) bays ; disabled badge holders’ bays ; doctors (sic) bays ; dual usage bays ; green badge bays ; loading bays ; motorcycle bays ; parking meter bays ; pay-and-display bays ; permit holders’ bays ; residents’ parking bays ; shared use bays ; suspended bays ; and traders (sic) parking bays.
    This is what the council says about yellow lines:
    Waiting restrictions are shown by yellow lines along the edge of the carriageway. Double yellow lines always mean that there is no parking at any time: single yellow lines are in force during times which are either indicated on an adjoining sign plate, or within a Controlled Parking Zone, during the times of control of the zone, as shown on the zone entry signs at the boundaries of the CPZ. Within a CPZ single yellow lines do not have an adjacent sign plate unless the times of parking restrictions differ from the hours of control of the zone in general. Controls generally apply on bank / public holidays unless sign plates indicate otherwise.

  6. no one
    Posted August 19, 2009 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    actually when parking enforcement passed from the police to the councils in worcestershire there was one obvious change

    the double yellow lines around some of the council offices started to be parked on routinely by many people during normal working days

    and the explanation was that the folk parking there were council employees!

    you see the council enforcement folk turn a blind eye to council staff on double yellows while hammering other motorists

    and i know this was endorsed all the way to the top of the relevant council department as i was working there for a few days and heard relevant conversations

    at least when police/traffic wardens were doing the job there were complaints procedures in place to tackle obvious favortism like this

  7. GJTory
    Posted August 19, 2009 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    John – forgive me if you have blogged on this topic before.

    Do you think that local councils would treat the people in their boroughs (whether visitors or voters) less like sheep to be fleeced if they had greater control of both the way in which their budgets were spent and the raising of finance through taxation for those budgets?

    If they could control the amount of money they brought in through taxation rather than fines they might choose to do so.

    Reply: Maybe. The Conservatives do favour giving them more power to decide things. We also need stronger public opinion to restrain them.

  8. alan jutson
    Posted August 19, 2009 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    Shame some of the cabinet ministers do not suffer this kind of treatment first hand, then perhaps something would be done about it.

    The fact is we are getting more and more like a police/communist state in so many ways as time rolls on.

    The reason they do it, is BECAUSE THEY CAN.

    Now for more and more offences you have to prove your innocent, you are assumed guilty as charged until you do.

    It is now getting close to stage that you can have justice, if you can afford it.

    A very sad state of affairs.

  9. Mike Stallard
    Posted August 19, 2009 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    Dan Hannan of NHS fame wrote a book with Douglas Carswell called “the Plan”. A very good read. He thinks that real democracy can be brought back to UK in just a year.
    (Bit about migrants left out -ed)
    The other thing is that one particular party gets entrenched and thereafter it has total power to abuse at leisure.
    A letter to the local paper is actually something which I can positively recommend for putting injustices like this right. People do read the local papers.
    I just wish our MP wrote as much sense as our host does in his local paper.

  10. Jill Cooper
    Posted August 19, 2009 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    It’s outrageous. Who can afford £260.00. Probably only the officials who work in the councils. Is this how they make enough to pay for their gold-plated pensions? What happens if you don’t work in the public secotr and haven’t got £260? Do you lose your car as well? I hope Camden Council reads your website.

  11. Lola
    Posted August 19, 2009 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    All these fines and fees are a symptom of the general Sovietisation of the UK. The apparatchiks in the ‘party’ (here the state bureaucracies) get all the perks and the general citizen is hounded to pay for it by the imposition of a myriad of petty ‘offences’ that give opportunity for fines. Most of which the bureaucracy evades by special privilidge. (The whole ‘Key Workers’ deceit was part of this development of the power of the state bureaucracies, in that ‘Key Workers’ were held to be a special group that deserved special treatment).

    In reality none of these people are any different from the corrupt Zimbabwaian policeman who stops traffic at ad hoc check points and makes a financial demand based on some arbitrary transgression that he’s just invented.

    All this is the classic, and predictable result, of 12 plus years of what here passes for Socialism. Socialism always trends to totalitarianism. It cannot do anything else. Here Blair/Brown didn’t bother with any socialism, they just went straight past Go! collected their £200 and went straight to totalitarism.

    ‘Death’s too good for them’ to quote Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz.

  12. Helene
    Posted August 19, 2009 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    We went shopping at a well-known Islington borough-based deli. My partner parked our car and went across the road to get the pay and display slip (the only machine in sighting distance). WHILE HE WAS WALKING ACROSS THE ROAD 12 SECONDS AFTER PARKING a traffic warden was writing out a ticket. Only a chorus of protests from ourselves and bystanders prevented this idiot from issuing it. Needless to say, we stopped shopping at that deli. It is not particularly near or convenient to public transport, either.

    Had a similar experience with the Traffic Taliban in Wales, a part of the UK we now make it a policy to avoid.

    If councils want business, they should try being a bit more car-friendly.

    • Lola
      Posted August 19, 2009 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

      Ours in Ipswich are desssed more like scruffy (unflattering reference to unpleasant people), with the accommodatiing personalities to match.

  13. Acorn
    Posted August 19, 2009 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    On average, local councils’ “sales, fees and charges” bring in just under half as much (£11 billion) as Council Tax. The Audit Commission did a report on it last year “Positively Charged”, see following:-

    http://www.audit-commission.gov.uk/nationalstudies/localgov/Pages/positivelycharged.aspx

    If you want to find out how puritan your Council is, check its “fees and charges” on its web-site, and see how much they charge for a Sex Shop licence.

  14. no one
    Posted August 19, 2009 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    re “It is now getting close to stage that you can have justice, if you can afford it.” its is at that stage, having seen many court cases now its fairly obvious the side with the bigger/more expensive legal team just about always wins regardless of the merits of the case, its especially nuts what the public try to take on an organisation like the nhs in court as the nhs can just throw limitless lawyers at it to ruin any ordinary person, and then the courts tend to award costs against the wronged person, given that the nhs complaints procedures as so useless this is especially bad

    motoring cases are bad, if they want they can take anyones licence just by monitoring you doing a few mph over some overly low limit (like everyone else does!) and then letting all the nips arrive on your doorstep on the same day

    meanwhile the real scum are still on the streets i notice

    not really justice

  15. John
    Posted August 19, 2009 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    I live in Chelsea and drive to Camden area to collect people from stations or deliver parcels. Or I used to, that is. Almost every visit results in a fine. So far 3 times this year.
    Getting stuck in a yellow box after someone cuts infront of you has happened twice.
    Fined for pulling over on a red line to let a police car with siren on, for less than 10 seconds.
    The whole set up in Camden is dishonest, immoral and punitive. The officials who run Camden are officious, out of touch and small minded.
    I avoid Camden now & if asked to collection someone I advise people get a taxi as I can’t afford £60 a trip.
    This is reflective of government as a whole now. We are here to entertain the political elite’s social policy fantasies which have no regard for the ordinary citizen.

  16. Matt
    Posted August 19, 2009 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    The signs for on street parking are standardised across the UK and if you can’t understand them you shouldn’t be driving a car. The standard of charging is set to dissuade drivers from parking illegally -if it was as you suggest a reasonable fee rich people would happily pay it. The car was parked illegally and by definition was causing an obstruction to anyone else who wanted to use that part of the highway.

    If drivers cannot follow simple (and yes all parking rules on street are simple if you bother to take 5 minutes to try to understand them) rules about parking their extremely valuable property then they get what they deserve. It’s not a council rip off but another idiot tax that only the ignorant ever need pay – just like speeding, red light jumping and numerous other motoring idiot taxes. However your correspondent had already exhibited their fool hardiness by driving into central London.

    Reply: You are out of touch with how most live their lives. We need to get around in cars to do out jobs or to shop or visit friends. The rules are not the same over when single yellows ban you from parking and when they do not. In many places no obstruction is caused by parking on single yellows.

  17. Usman
    Posted August 19, 2009 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    You should always complain to Cllr Andrew Marshall, the Conservative Deputy Leader of Camden Council and cabinet member for resources.

  18. no one
    Posted August 20, 2009 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    What nonsense matt talks, yes john he is out of touch

    Speeding fines are a tax because I) the limits are often set too low for anti car political reasons ii) driving is an art and not a precise science iii) sometimes the safe thing to do is to use a little speed. Inappropriate Speed nonsense and the associated propaganda have done real road safety no end of harm, spend some time looking at abd.org.uk for real facts and figures – and compare with the ZanuLabour nonsense which is publicised at public expense

    Normal towns and cities there is some leeway, and respect amongst folk. Compare and contrast some towns in say Belgium and here. Much easier to park close to where you need to be in Belgium. Any real benefit to anyone from doing it our way? nope

    The fashions amongst UK councils and their contractors (Atkins et al) for road design, parking planning, access etc are totally at odds with the rest of the Western World, and I really don’t think we have it right. Much of the deaths on our roads should be blamed fully on the idiots who designed that dangerous road intersection or other feature. I can point you at road designs that have been put in new in the last few years which were obvious death traps from the first day, and casualties have indeed proven this, and guess what ruthlessly fining drivers is not going to solve this! Show me one example of the idiot who designed an unsafe road junction being brought before a court for causing death by negligence?

    If you drive a high mileage you are absolutely going to make some small mistakes, the skill is knowing your abilities, reading to road, and being able to adjust accordingly to that and the conditions. Idiots driving precisely to an arbitrary speed all the time are some of the worst drivers we have. If you make a few small mistakes, but are otherwise SAFE on the roads, you should not be loosing your licence, job, and house – a punishment which the scum on the streets never get for far more serious offences

    On a lighter note: The rich always have ignored parking fines, I laughed my socks off when the police insisted the Duke of Westminster came out of a venue in Oxford to move his car when his bouncers were trying to get the police to just stick a parking ticket on it, nice Aston though, to be fair he was nice as nine pence about it

    Etc

  19. Adrian Peirson
    Posted August 21, 2009 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    That’s theft and extortion with menaces, can anyone tell me why we put up with this, the should leave us alone, the guy should sue the local council ( which is a Private company listed on Dunn and Bradstreet ) for his loss and inconvenience.

    It’s an Illusion parts 1-9
    http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=8126648BDCD19653

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    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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