A recently-widowed disabled woman was reduced to tears by one of the county’s new parking wardens, councillors have heard.
The driver had displayed her blue badge correctly, but was given a ticket in Alnwick last Friday afternoon because the thin cardboard clock had partially concealed the permit.
The incident, involving a woman from a village near Alnwick, was reported to Tuesday’s county scrutiny committee by Seaton Delaval Labour councillor Margaret Richards, herself a wheelchair user.
She happened to be passing when the driver arrived at County Hall to pay her £70 fine. She was crying and distraught. Coun Richards intervened and the penalty was cancelled.
She told fellow councillors the woman had been recently bereaved and was out of her mind with distress over the ticket and her experience with the civil enforcement officer. “We did get it overturned, but it shouldn’t have happened in the first place.”
Executive member Coun Simon Reed said: “I apologise on behalf of the service to the woman who had the experience you describe, because that should not be happening.”
The meeting was given a progress report on the service’s first five months, during which some officers have received death threats.
The department has now learned it may need planning permission for radio masts to set up a communication system for the CEOs, which it has been trying to do since the start of the year. It is also considering supplying body cameras to protect staff and provide evidence in disputed cases.
The county was accused by one councillor of pursuing a ‘dash for cash’ in view of the high number of tickets issued in some relatively small towns. At Berwick, 2,081 have been given out, generating £48,576, compared with nine at Cramlington, generating £175.
Manager Lynne Ryan said that was because Berwick had so many yellow lines – more than seven per cent of the county total, with Alnwick on more than four per cent – but Cramlington had very few regulations.