Thursday 16 April 2015

The politics of parking


The council is now saying that the tickets were issued in error, but it insists that it will enforce new charges for parking on Sundays from May. This begs the question why did traffic wardens turn out on a Sunday and slap tickets on cars. Were they acting spontaneously, donning their uniforms for fun and working for free? Or was it a full dress rehearsal?

As far as Llanelli is concerned, the proposed 6-month pilot is good news. If you believe Meryl, Kevin
Madge and the rest, the town has never had it so good. Last week an independent retail analyst ranked Llanelli 499th out of 500 UK retail centres, which sums up what 15 years of Meryl and Madge have achieved.

But ever-increasing parking charges are not just killing Llanelli.


Carmarthenshire County Council would not be Carmarthenshire County Council if we were not treated to a monthly constitutional wrangle, often involving Labour 'amendments' to motions which negate the original motion and spurious interpretations of the rules by the chief executive and Linda Legal.

So this month did not disappoint, and you can read a blow-by-blow account by Caebrwyn here, but in a nutshell Cllr John Jenkins (Attila the Hun was a Lefty, Unaffiliated) had submitted a motion calling for a 6 month trial of free parking in council car parks in Llanelli.

Cllr Peter Cooper (Labour, Ammanford Tendency) came up with an amendment calling on the Executive Board to review its strategy for the whole of the county, while remaining consistent with "national and regional parking objectives".

Car parking charges are an issue in the election in Llanelli, with the Plaid candidate, Vaughan Williams, highlighting concerns about the impact of parking charges on the town centre. Vaughan also ran a petition calling for the charges to be scrapped and collected 650 signatures.

At this point in the proceedings Llanelli Labour must have had a premonition of newspaper headlines screaming "Labour torpedoes free parking plan for Llanelli", heightening fears that they could lose their 93-year clammy grip on the town.

Voting to accept John Jenkins' proposal would at least have the merit of burying the issue until the election is well out of the way.

Kev's troops were in turmoil, and he decided to call for the meeting to be suspended so that Labour could get its ducks back in a row.

The prospect of an election defeat concentrates minds wonderfully, and Peter Cooper's 'amendment' was duly withdrawn. A large majority then voted in favour of the 6-month parking freebie, and the matter will now go off to the Executive Board next month. It may still be chucked out, what with the election having been dealt with, especially if Labour loses the seat.

Peter Cooper's amendment would have had the effect of kicking the issue into the long grass, but the idea that the council should look at parking charges across the whole county does have its merits. As things now stand, there will only be free parking if you live in a Labour-held constituency.

There being no such thing as a free lunch, the losers in all of this will be residents of Newcastle Emlyn, Carmarthen, Llandeilo, Llandovery and Ammanford. Plus, of course, Labour's candidate in Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, Calum Higgins, who now has the job of explaining to would-be constituents why his party has voted every year to ramp up parking charges in Ammanford and the market towns while agreeing to free parking in Llanelli.

For those of us not fortunate enough to live in Llanelli, there was an indication of tougher times to come last Sunday morning when the county council dispatched traffic wardens to carry out a blitz on church and chapel goers in Carmarthen. Quite a few of them now face having to pay fines which will dwarf anything that they put into the collection.

Luckily there are not many Labour voters in the Welsh-speaking chapel congregations of Carmarthen these days, but as Cllr Colin Evans will no doubt soon be reminding everyone, the council will have to make up the shortfall somewhere.

This blog refuses to stoop to the tactics used by the Cambrian News, but if it did the headline of this piece could have been Calum sends in Nazi storm troop wardens to terrorise chapel goers shock.


Anonymous said...

Disgraceful parking on double lines. Not very Christian. It is not safe and it holds up the traffic flow of carers , ambulances, fire services and all those sinners who shop on a Sunday supporting the Town. Why should Christians be let off ? What about Muslims on Friday and the Jewish community on Saturday ? Not to forget Catholics who might attend mass every day . Perhaps there should be less covet of public highway it is stealing from the tax payer by not paying the fine and may be putting other highway users at risk and taking a space from a disabled person. Use your conscience.

Cneifiwr said...

Anon@15.31 I wonder if you could direct me to the synagogue in Carmarthen, or any one of the mosques?

This has never been a problem before, and there was no obstruction of any public highway from what I hear.

Anonymous said...

Whilst anon 1546 went over the top a little it does seem strange to me that these people have been let off simply for going to church or chapel.

I don't agree with strict enforcement of parking regs when not needed but to use religion as a means of escaping a penalty does not seem fair to me.

What if I wanted to pop into a pub for lunch or to do some shopping - would the council be so lenient then ?

The fact is the wardens should not be directed to book cars when there is no need - they simply need to ensure that there is a free flow of traffic. Enforcement is just part of that surely.

One other thing - the wardens in Carmarthen dont half look miserable, I know they have the shit end of the stick job wise but crikey they could at least smile as they go about the place !!

caebrwyn said...

By way of an update, the council have said that the fines issued on Sunday were in error, by over-enthusiastic traffic wardens presumably, and will be waived. Seven day enforcement doesn't actually start until May.

Redhead said...

All the other towns will be subsidising one town. This seems to be a political decision taken during purdah. Councils without elections are not exempt from purdah which in an offence.

Jack Old Oak said...

Once again CCC is managing to make an utter mess and shambles over what could be a simple matter, once again indication the intellectual poverty and lack of common sense of both councillors (particularly those in the governing “junta” of right-wing labour and the “non-independent” independent councillors, to say nothing of senior management). We all know that the object of charging in the council car parks is simply to raise as much money as possible from the poor hapless motorist, with no concern for easing the life of motorists visiting Carmarthenshire, and regardless of the (hugely) detrimental effect on small businesses in the towns, of those needing to visit surgeries etc. All that is required is the application of a little thought and (not-so-common) common sense. Life would be much easier for all if, perhaps, the following scheme was adopted throughout ALL council car parks in the county (including Llanelli – why exempt them?) and enforced rigorously:
1. The first 30 minutes of parking to be free – to allow visits to public toilets (where “spending a penny” costs so much more that a penny), surgeries to hand in and collect prescriptions and to visit one or two shops;
2. For stays longer than 30 minutes, then 50p for an hour, £1.60 for up to 2 hours, £3 for up to 4 hours and £5 for time in excess of 4 hours and up to all day.
3. These charges should be levied between 8 am and 6 pm except on Sundays, when charges would commence at 1 pm (to allow adequate time for church-goers to return to their cars after morning services, which finish, in many cases at between noon and 12.30 pm.
4. On-street parking time restrictions to be enforced more rigorously – a number of cars park in Lammas Street, Carmarthen much longer that the 30 minutes stipulated on the nearby signs – some seem to park all day with complete impunity – does it depend on “who you know”?
5. Disabled badge holders, now that they have been robbed of the free parking promised at the last local elections by Labour (what a surprise – knowing Labour’s track record on keeping promises) to have to pay but to retain the present concession of an extra hour beyond the expiry time shown on their parking ticket.
6. All parking tickets to be transferable between council car parks within the town they were purchased in and up to the expiry time of the ticket. (*this applies at the moment, though not many realise this because of wrong information on car park signs)
7. Payments to be extended to within the car parks in County Hall Spillman Street and other car parks attached to council offices for councillors who use them for any occasion and who get more than adequate allowances and expenses at public cost.
Now that was quite simple, wasn’t it? But beyond the mental capabilities of councillors and all administrative staff from the lowest to the highest.