Here we go again. It is reported in the press that local authority parking profits have risen to a new record high. I think the attitude that prevails in our town halls stems from calling our councils an ‘authority’. Call me naïve but I though that your local politicians were elected to serve the community by making sure the bins were emptied and the like but slowly and insidiously something unpleasant has happened to those who would serve.
Another word that councils like is ‘enforcer’ which tells you all you need to know. Technically, they are public servants like the foul-mouthed dustman – or refuse collector – I recently had a run in with. Of course, it is, as ever, wrong to generalise. Very many local councillors and council staff work tirelessly for the good of the community; the issue for me is with councils as a whole. It is not their brief to tell us what to do, yet a superior, holier-than-thou attitude hangs in the air like that mysterious, unknown smell in the dark cupboard under the stairs that’s been there ever since Tiddles disappeared.
On-street parking charge profits collected are, according to the 1984 Road Traffic Act, supposed to be spent on ‘parking facilities, roads and public transport’. That isn’t happening. Councils say that the money is needed to pay for front-line services – which are also being cut. The fact is that the same organisations that spent all the money a few years ago are now trying to claw it back. They can’t get the readies from the government any more so they are going to get it from you; and the easiest target is the motorist. In short, it’s just another tax. So much for the Prime Minister’s statement of a few years ago that ‘the war on motorists is over’.
This is despite the fact that ‘councils are allowed to set charges for parking to manage traffic and demand but must not do so to make a profit’. It’s in the 1984 Road Traffic Act – ‘parking charges and parking fines should not be used to raise revenue’. Yet for the sixth year running profits have risen annually to the current £700m.
Nobody seems to be able to combat this. Motorists moan, motoring organisations puff out their cheeks in disgust but nothing actually happens. Individually, the everyday driver can do little although if we all took the trouble to write to our MPs in large numbers there might be a response. Sadly, most people can’t be bothered; they accept this stuff in the same way they accept a troublesome verruca – they just keep on limping along.
It seems like our motoring lives have always been like this. It comes under the same banner as the inexorable and excremental rise of the average speed cameras, routinely being deployed now under the obvious guise of road safety when, of course, we all really know what it’s about. What I find is the saddest thing about all this though is not so much that we are having to take it the hard way so much as having it done to us by our neighbours. Society eh?