Making Space for Religion

It’s not often that you see something positive in the interaction between religion and the state these days. I was surprised to see that Barnet Council in North London is introducing a special parking permit for religious leaders on official business. Parking in any part of London can be a nightmare and when space can be found, fees can be outrageous.

In many areas residential parking is restricted to residents. For those making house calls this can be particularly problematic. The new permit will allow priests and other Christian ministers as well as Rabbis and spiritual leaders of other religions to park in resident spaces.

As you can imagine, parking for worship services can also difficult in some areas. Barnet Council will consider applications for the special permits for these situations.

The permits will cost £40 per year, but compared to the normal parking costs combined with the increased availability of spaces, these seems like a pretty good deal.

Local Government at Its Worst

The world is full of jobworths. It’s really not that surprising when someone with a uniform and a limited secondary education meets a quota by some sort of oppressive official action, usually involving an undeserved and out-of-proportion fine.

Jean Raine is 82-year-old and suffers from Parkinson’s Disease. She was feel ill and taking a rest in her car. The car was legally parked in a handicap bay. She has a disabled parking badge. But, oops, it was the wrong way up. Perhaps not surprising when you are 82, have Parkinson’s, and have been taken ill. Still, in a world of semi-literate, quota-driven jobsworths, it is no excuse.

The only care taken by the parking attendant was to quietly put the ticket on the windscreen, so as not to disturb Miss Raine. After all, had he done that, she would have turned the badge over and proven that it was, in fact, fully valid. Then he would have to find another unlucky driver to ticket.

But like I said, this bit is not surprising. But when faced with this sort of action, sometimes it is necessary to appeal to responsible and rational authorities. Miss Raine and her partner 88-year-old Martin Westgarth (who was shopping while Miss Raine rested) appealed to the South Lakeland Council in Cumbria. The council rejected their appeal. Why? “Guidance notes issued with the badge and parking disc clearly state that it should be clearly and correctly displayed at all times.”

You can read the full story in the Daily Telegraph.

I think it would be nice if people across Britain let South Lakeland Council know how terrible their policies are. The cabinet member of the council responsible for parking is Mrs Hilary Stephenson. If you click the link you will find all of her contact details, including her email address.

Power Crazy Parking Nazis

Just came across this on one of The Times blogs:

The Ten Craziest Parking Tickets of All Time

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Raking in the Revenue

The Government is raking in the cash from motorists. It’s not just the vast revenues from petrol taxes. They are taking more and more in fines.

Last Wednesday, we found out just how much they had scooped up in speeding fines. Since they came to power, Labour have trebled the number of tickets issued. Combined with the increase in fines by 50%, the cost to motorists has gone from £28.5 million in 1997 to £115.2 million in 2005. The Government says reason for the increase in speed cameras has been to increase road safety, but while fines have increased over 400%, road deaths have fallen by 6%.

If you think speeding fines are a cash cow, then you haven’t considered parking fines. These amount to £1.2 billion a year. Now the amount is set rise dramatically.

Parking attendants are being given new powers. They no longer have to put the ticket on a windscreen. All they have to say is that they observed the offense but were prevented from putting the notice on the car. This is intended to prevent drive-offs on the one hand and threatening behaviour on the other, but there is nothing requiring either of these extremes. A motorist could be completely unaware that their car as been “oberserved”. But it gets worse. No, really.

Parkers will also be losing the right to an independent appeal. Currently, the National Parking Adjudication Service handles appeals. This means that local councils, who receive the money, don’t decide them. Now they will. It is a bit like the police serving as the judge in crminal cases.

It’s just a little bit of a conflict of interest. In essence, the council employee writes a cheque to the council from your bank account. You will then have to prove that the council should give you your money back. Since the parking attendant has no burden of proof whatsoever, you have an overwhelming burden of proof and virtually no way to collect evidence.

Parking attendants will be able to meet their quotas, or exceed them, without any worry about any come back on their actions. Councils may have to hire additional employees just to haul all of the loot to the bank.