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Wycombe parking wardens are a helpful lot
10:08am Friday 29th June 2012 in Editor's Chair
IS it my imagination or are the Parking wardens improving in High Wycombe?
I have noticed they appear to be far more helpful these days – and there seems to be more emphasis on public service.
A few weeks ago, I had occasion to talk to one during the Tuesday morning jam that brought the town to a standstill.
I managed to escape the traffic and park in Rectory Avenue. I bought a ticket from a meter and went to have a coffee as I waited for things to calm down.
On my return, I found a warden standing close to my car. I approached him and asked if it would be okay for me to return to the same space with the same unexpired ticket if I drove off but found myself stuck again in gridlock.
He said this was fine but then went above and beyond by asking where I was going and then trying to work out the best route to work for me. I’ve always believed wardens do a valuable job, but they are disliked because too many appear as if they are trying to catch you out. This chap, however, seemed to really want to help.
The same applies to the ones patrolling near my son’s school. For years, it annoyed me how parents would dangerously park opposite the school gates where children were trying to cross.
We lobbied for wardens and I now see them there every day, sensibly trying to move on errant drivers. The roads are safer as a result.
A colleague, whose children go to another school in Wycombe, reports a similar picture. Wardens patrol, but the emphasis is not on booking people – it’s on clearing the roads.
As I say, this could be a false picture and I’d be interested in what others have to report. But perhaps it’s coincided with the change last September when private company NSL took over street Parking from Wycombe District Council.
I’m not saying the WDC regime was all bad, although I had an unhappy experience with it which I’ve chronicled previously.
The council fined me for an error on my part, when I bought a ticket from the wrong machine, and then it steadfastly refused all my appeals.
In law, WDC was right because I had made a mistake. But in principle, it was wrong because there was no malice and it was my first ‘offence’.
The council, which is there to serve the public, should have given me the benefit of the doubt that time, but chose instead to stick to the rules. I have heard similar stories from other motorists.
The worst instance came last December in Marlow at the car park for the new Sainsbury’s. Machines installed when Sainsbury’s opened printed two similar looking pieces of paper – a store discount voucher and then a parking ticket.
Problems arose when drivers mistakenly took the first part only and placed this on display. Ninety-two people fell foul of this and were fined £50.
WDC, which still controls enforcement for public car parks, changed the machines after the complaints – but refused to quash the fines. The council said: “For context, 15,003 pay & display tickets were purchased in the car park over the same period and therefore only 0.6 per cent of ticket sales related to drivers incorrectly displaying a voucher.”
That made my blood boil because it was clearly an innocent mistake on the part of the 92, who had still actually paid for tickets, and we campaigned on their behalf.
To our satisfaction, the independent Parking Adjudicator agreed and scrapped the fines of some motorists who appealed. WDC climbed down last month and agreed to review all of the penalties.
I can understand the reluctance to quash fines because it will allow some people to cheat the system. But by standing firm against cheats, the council was penalising the majority of law-abiding taxpayers who simply made errors.
A council’s job is to serve the public, and people do deserve to be given the benefit of the doubt, at least once, if they may have been acting in good faith.
The new parking regime appears to have grasped this point and, forgive the pun, seems to have made a fine start.