Probe into parking contract after TV shocker
Tuesday 3rd October 2006
By Jeremy Wicking
Council bosses have ordered an immediate review into NCP's parking enforcement contract, after an undercover investigation.
Police are to probe footage from BBC's Inside Out, which showed parking attendants making racist comments and even cracking jokes about disabled people.
One patrolman boasted he had vandalised a car as an act of revenge after an argument.
The parking service could be taken over by the council, given to a new contractor, or renegotiated with NCP.
Council leader Bob Symonds said: "This council will not tolerate racism or comments like this about disabled people from our staff our anybody else, and it is certainly not what we expect from our contractors."
Disgusted Bob orders parking deal review
Sunderland council leader Bob Symonds today launched an immediate review of the city's parking enforcement contract after revelations in an undercover TV investigation.
He also revealed that police are being handed a file on how traffic attendants made racist comments and jokes about disabled people on the BBC programme.
Coun Symonds said he would meet with NCP (National Car Parks), which has had the contract for three-and-a-half years.
That review could see the parking service being taken over by the council, a new contractor or a renegotiated agreement.
As well as racist comments on the Inside Out programme on BBC last night, an attendant described how he vandalised a car in revenge after an argument with a driver.
Coun Symonds said: "I was disgusted and I'm concerned as everyone else in the city about the remarks that were made.
"This city council will not tolerate racism or comments like this about disabled people from our staff or anubody else, and it is certainly not what we expect from our contractors."
"The racist remarks are being referred to the police and the contract is under review."
He confirmed that he would be meeting with NCP at the earliest opportunity to discuss the contract and urged anyone to report the behaviour of attendants to the council, NCP or police.
Control of traffic attendants from Northumbria Police passed to the council at the beginning of 2003 and since then more than £1.8 million in fines has been collected.
There are 17 attendants and the service has been plagued by allegations of aggressive ticketing while the council has had to refund more than £60,000 of fines after loopholes were exposed.
NCP spokesman Tim Cowen said it was taking the programme's footage extremely seriously and launched an immediate investigation into the conduct of the attendants.
He said: "As an employer we cannot condone the language used in the programme, but it was not clear the level of entrapment used."
"The BBC refusd to show us any footage of it and we are deeply suspicious about the way it was compiled and it was riddled with mistakes."
He said an allegation of tyre slashing may simply just have been "silly bravado" and added: "Whether the attendant actually slashed them is another matter as there is no record of a complaint to the police.
"Nevertheless, we cannot condone racist comments or those about people with disabilities and we're investigating those."
The BBC said: We set out to ask some serious questions about the state of parking in Sunderland."
Park and deride on city streets
Racist comments from a Sunderland parking attendant will have shocked viewers of last night's Inside Out programme.
The BBC documentary was examining the city's parking system by placing an undercover journalist as a trainee attendant.
The journalist filmed racist remarks and also taped one NCP attendant claiming he'd slashed tyres and another verbally abusing people with disabilities.
We're sure the firm that employs the attendants will have been watching the programme with growing horror.
On the evidence shown last night, NCP must act against those identified on film.
Meanwhile, Sunderland City Council has quite rightly said it will be posing some serious questions to NCP.
The council took over responsibility for the management and enforcement of the parking system from the police three years ago.
Since then the council has had its problems with parking - culminating in the repayment of £60,000 of fines, and a tribunal run by the Nationsl Parking Adjudication Service which starts today.
The council has consistently said it has corrected mistakes and that its controlled parking zone is lawful.
That may be so, but councillors will today be deeply concerned about those enforcing our parking system, and the damage done to the city's image by last night's programme.
D-Day for tickets protester Neil
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