Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Parking enforcement ... the new stealth tax in Cambridge

Wardens accused of ticketing a 'stealth tax'
Cambridge Evening News

THE favourite haunts of traffic wardens in Cambridge can now be revealed by the News.

Parking fine blackspots have been pinpointed street by street using information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

The top 10 places where city motorists are more likely to be ticketed can now be revealed.

Since parking fines were taken out of the hands of police in October 2004 the number of fines issued has quadrupled. Campaigners have accused the council of using its powers as a "stealth tax".

More than 120,000 fines have been dished out by wardens, but just 10,000 tickets were issued by police the year before they handed the role over to Cambridge City Council. Since then the authority has raked in a massive £3.6m - more than enough to cover the £2m to pay for 100 extra officers Chief Constable Julie Spence says she needs to tackle an influx of migrants since the EU expanded in 2004.

Now we have identified the streets where wardens have been firing on all cylinders. And you can find out what's happening with wardens in your street on Cambridge News online.

A total of 40,000 tickets were issued from February 2007 to January 2008. In the same period the previous year, 42,000 were doled out.More than 41,000 parking fines were slapped on cars in the previous year and 6,700 from November 2004 to January 2005.

Neil Herron, of Parking Appeals, a campaign helping people fight parking fines, has accused the council of revenue-raising and believes it has made no difference to traffic woes.

He said: "There won't be a difference in traffic flow in Cambridge after decriminalisation. The only difference will be that the money raised by police went to a central pot but the money made by the council goes to the council."
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that this has everything to do with revenue-raising. It is a stealth tax on motorists and has hit local businesses."

Cambridge City councillor Rob Dryden believes people are less likely to park illegally - but called for common sense from wardens.

He said: "I think that now people are not so willing to stop on double yellow lines to nip to the shop and it may have stopped people parking in disabled bays. But there must be common sense from wardens."

Those who have fallen foul of wardens include a circus, a coach carrying children to a pantomime, a disabled man's mobility scooter and a coach taking pensioners on a mayoral outing. Moscow State Circus manager Paul Archer was shocked when his lorry was delivering to Cambridge Corn Exchange, where the big show was performing.

And a parking ticket was slapped on a coach as the driver waited to collect primary school pupils after a pantomime.John Turnock, owner of Anglian Travel, based in Haddenham, had sent one of his coaches to help pick up 350 children from the Arts Theatre, but the driver received a ticket as he waited for them.

Emergency EDF electricians also fell foul of wardens. They returned to find tickets on their vans in Peas Hill - number nine in the top 10 - after they had fixed a major fault at the Arts Theatre.

Even a disabled man's mobility vehicle was ticketed while it was parked in a designated area after his permit was stolen.

Raphael Piran, 36, of Radegund Road, Cambridge is wheelchair bound. The disabled parking badge he kept stuck inside his windscreen was stolen and wardens gave him a ticket while parked outside the Arts Theatre - which was later thrown out on appeal last year.

And dozens of Cambridge pensioners nearly missed out on the Mayor's trip to the seaside - after one of the city council's own parking attendants slapped a ticket on their coach.Red-faced councillors on the trip later apologised for the blunder.

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