Part of the surveillance culture and the oppressive style of some public authorities is the trigger happy approach to prosecution. Locally I receive many complaints about heavy handed parking enforcement, leading to large fines and clamping fees where honest mistakes have been made because the rules are complex. I hear this week that someone is alleged elsewhere to have falsified their address to try and get their child into a better school, and faces fraud charges. It is all over the top.
I do not condone deliberate misrepresentation to try to get in to a better school. If that occurs, surely the correct punishment is no priority for the better school, no good chance on the waiting list? It cannot make sense to throw the book at the hapless parent, who wrongly went too far in trying to secure a place at one of the better schools. It just shows the frustration of parents with a system which is meant to deliver choice. In some areas there are not enough places at the better schools. People cannot accept the standards of the poorer schools.The local authority should spend more time trying to improve standards, so there are enough places at schools where parents are happy to send their children.
The money spent on investigating and even prosecuting the parents who try to play the system would be better spent on sorting out the underlying problem. Parents understand that they will obtain priority for a place only if they meet certain criteria the Authority lays down. They can’t just say they want their child to go to School X because they think it is better. That starts the search to qualify. The better off can move to get into the right catchment. We do have allocation of better school by postcode. If a single sex school has better results, parents suddenly become champions of single sex education. They believe the authorities will listen to that argument, whilst they fear that simply saying they want their child to go to the school with better results will not cut any ice. Systems of bureaucratic rationing force people to think and say things they think will be within the allocation rules.
When it comes to parking, we all see the need to keep people from parking in ways which block junctions, driveways, or impede the free flow of traffic. It is more difficult to fathom why some places where parking is allowed have such complicated rules that it is not always clear when and on what terms you can park there. In Wokingham the largest number of cases arise from a split car park, where part is available for all of us and some is reserved for private parking. In parts of London you need to ponder long and hard to find out when and if you can use parking places,. Sometimes the attached signs simply do not cover all the cases, being unclear for example on bank holiday or Sunday rules. That’s why people think the authorities are unfair, and often too trigger happy when it comes to minor offences.