EVs, CCTV Tech, Sidewalks, and “Power to Charge”


EVs, CCTV Tech, Sidewalks, and “Power to Charge”

First a postscript to last month. I was fairly uncomplimentary about electric cars and my government’s disingenuous attempts to convince us that, contrary to all the evidence, they were the way forward to a net zero green, clean future. 

In that rant I referenced that several major car manufacturers shared my opinions about the feasibility and success of this scenario and that it would be much better to move us towards a change to hybrid vehicles that, although not reaching the fanciful green nirvana that EVs offer, would take us a lot of the way there and significantly reduce emissions from road traffic. 

Well, barely was the ink dry on my quill pen when the papers seemed to be littered with stories of hybrid after hybrid vehicle falling short of its claimed electric range meaning that, in reality they are a lot more polluting than the manufacturers claim. Sigh, does anyone know where I can buy a Stanley Steamer? At least I can run that on renewable wood even if wood smoke isn’t quite ideal.

All in all, it’s not been a good month for the UK parking industry. Excel is a company that operates a lot of car parks, often using CCTV based technology to ensure that people have paid and don’t overstay in their time. Typically, they would have a car park linked to a retail development where parking is free, or charged, but with a limit on stay. 

However, it seems that, in Sheffield at least, their operation is just a bit, shall we say, slapdash. The local paper cites two cases in one of their car parks where penalties were demanded, improperly due to “administrative errors.” And now, in another car park, drivers have been getting citations even though they have properly paid. 

One driver received a demand for £100 for overstaying, but fortunately had kept the parking ticket showing that he had paid for his parking. He appealed but, he says, Excel ignored his appeal and only responded when he involved the local paper. In their response, Excel say that one of the pay machines on the site wasn’t transmitting data and so they didn’t have the payment record. 

They stated that “We have further reviewed our processes and quality checks in order to mitigate future incidents of this nature.” Poppycock. If they had any quality checks at all they would have been aware that their equipment was faulty and not have ever started the citation process once they realized that the data was corrupted. I wonder just how many of the cited drivers would have ever seen themselves vindicated if the press hadn’t got involved. 

To operate at all this company has to be able to access the government’s national Driver and Vehicle Licensing Data Base (DVLA) and the government has stated again and again that companies that misuse the data to seek payments that they are not entitled to will be locked out. It seems that, like so much else the government says, this is hot air.

I did a good deed earlier today and helped a blind lady cross a couple of roads. She lives near me and for many years, with the assistance of her guide dog, was very independent. Sadly, her dog died recently and now she struggles to move around the neighborhood. 

The only reason that I mention this is because it reminds me once again that the UK government still has failed to put into law an effective way of penalizing people who park their cars on sidewalks. The law is clear, drive on the footway and it’s a £500 fine, but the only way this can be enforced is in a magistrate’s court. The police can’t be bothered and municipalities seemed to be scared to use the powers they have to prosecute this offence, so my neighbor, and all those adults in wheelchairs and mothers with kids in buggies have to suffer and put their lives at risk by walking in traffic.

The devolved Scottish parliament and Welsh assembly seems to have had enough of this nonsense and both bodies are now progressing their own legislation. Scotland already has powers on the books, but for some reason has yet to implement their scheme. Wales is planning to introduce a £70 penalty following a trial in Cardiff in 2021. 

Unfortunately, because of the way that powers are split between Westminster, Cardiff and Edinburgh it will require municipalities to make local ordinances for their area rather than having a Wales-wide one. The expectation is that it will be in force by the end of the year, which for Britain is lighting fast.

Talking of fines and money, Edinburgh City Council and the Scottish Parliament seems to have decided that, if you don’t like the law, why not simply ignore it? A long time ago in a galaxy far away the courts ruled definitively that the power to charge for parking, and by extension the level of penalty charge or citation as you would call it, must be set for traffic purposes only. 

So, if you want to ration parking or pay the cost of providing the service, that’s ok. What a council absolutely definitely cannot do is use parking charges as a local tax. So the Edinburgh Parliament has just given the Edinburgh City Council permission to increase the parking penalty charge from £60 to £100, an eyewatering 67 percent rise. 

It looks like this will produce an extra £2.4m a year revenue which will be used to subsidize the underfunded city road maintenance budget. Yes, it will probably deter a few illegal parkers, but that’s not why its being done. Coincidentally, the council is planning to cut the road maintenance budget by £1.5 m a year.

Article contributed by:
Peter Guest, Parking Tales from Big Ben
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