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How the Brighton and Hove parking debate landed me with a £25 fine
In nearly four years living in Brighton and Hove I thought I had done it all – swam in the winter sea, inscribed my name on a pebble on the beach and lost a chip to a seagull.
But something happened to me last week which meant I had well and truly been there, done that and got the T-shirt (with a commemorative stick of rock thrown in) – my first parking ticket.
In a city where parking is king and where even those waiting for the bus moan about how expensive it is to leave their cars anywhere, it has been a minor miracle it has taken this long.
Let us be clear – it was not a major offence. I was just unlucky that a council meeting I was attending overran and I did not have the change to pay for another ticket.
The irony of all ironies was that it came at a meeting where, in part, parking income was being discussed.
But, hey ho, I’m not directing blame at anyone. It would be easy to blame the politicians who spent far too long talking.
It would be easy to criticise the traffic warden – sorry, civil enforcement officer – who issued the ticket and throw four-letter expletives in his direction. It could also quite feasibly be easy to blame the car for not moving itself.
But I’m not going to do that – and I’m definitely not going to send the fine to council leader Jason Kitcat asking for a rebate on the grounds a meeting he was overseeing overran.
The fault well and truly rests at my feet, which should have been on the accelerator pedal rather than under a table in Hove Town Hall.
Yet, this does not mean I will take the punishment lying down.
For far too long now, parking in Brighton and Hove has been an expensive necessity.
Then the Green council administration decided to carry out a widespread review and hike city centre charges to £3.50 for the shortest possible stay, an hour. For an update on the long-running saga you just have to read the pages of the Argus.
But it got me thinking – what happens if there is a full scale revolt?
I for one – and I don’t think I’m the only one – have simply not been paying for parking on some occasions. Why should I pay £3.50 when all I need to do is pop into a shop for five minutes and pick up a paper?
Is it not worth it in the long run to risk leaving your car in a legal spot and just pay the £25 fine if the parking gestapo catch up with you?
What would happen if we all did it? The council doesnt have the number of wardens on the street to inspect every car, wait the statutory five minutes and issue it with a ticket.
Let’s say there are 50 wardens – sorry, civil enforcement officers – working on a particular day, that’s a maximum of 600 tickets an hour or 4,500 over a working day. Can the council really process that many fines in a working day?
Within weeks I can guarantee there would be a reduction in some of the tariffs, in part to ease the workload from staff but also because of the mass damage to the council's parking income. It certainly would be a lot more effective than shouting abuse at a warden.
But then again, I’ll probably just cough up the cash, have a moan and next time use the bike.