I’M smarting in frustration at having to pay a hefty parking fine for failing to display a valid parking ticket in a local car park.
The bald facts are that I parked my car in Beadnell car park, by the beach, for about 20 minutes on a cold and rainy Monday afternoon in February and I did not display a ticket.
When I returned from (very briefly) exercising my dogs, there was a council vehicle in the car park, with two attendants sitting in it, who had fixed a penalty notice to my vehicle. Fair cop, you might say.
However, there are two aspects of this situation which I find especially frustrating.
The first is that, in hearing so much about council spending cuts, tight budgets and preserving essential services, I find it difficult to believe that it is cost-effective to have two council employees driving between the predominantly empty car parks of north Northumberland during the winter, looking for local people to prosecute.
I was the only vehicle in that particular car park, so presumably I made their journey almost worthwhile.
When the car parks are busy – when failure to purchase a ticket is actually denying the council significant much-needed income – then let’s employ some seasonal staff to enforce the rules.
But there are hardly any cars in our car parks in February and I cannot believe that these employees represent value for money, especially since they sat around for a significant period after they’d issued my ticket. It is especially galling that even though our own business brings tens of thousands of pounds into the local economy, we are required to buy a ticket every time we step out of our car in our neighbourhood car park, even during the winter.
Which brings me to my second point: Would it not be reasonable to allow the first 15 or 20 minutes free in our car parks? Now that Main Street in Seahouses is bedecked with double yellow lines, there is no alternative to the council car park when shopping in the village.
It is necessary to purchase a 50p ticket even when stopping for two minutes to pick up a newspaper or a loaf, or run the gauntlet of the zealous parking attendants. Surely, only the policy-makers at County Hall could consider this reasonable.
I should be thankful that if I pay my fine promptly, then it is apparently halved, from £60 to £30. Or perhaps I should exercise some civic responsibility and delay payment until the full amount becomes due.