The EU, Trouble in York, Forces of Darkness, and Apcoa Parking


The EU, Trouble in York, Forces of Darkness, and Apcoa Parking

The big news story here in the UK – indeed, in Europe – has nothing to do with parking. We Europeans have just elected a new batch of people to represent us in the European Parliament. The relationship between member states and the EU doesn’t really have an equivalent where you are; it’s not quite like Federal vs State government, but I guess there are some resonances.
Anyhow, Europe has voted (or about 1 in 3 have voted), and the winners are the anti-European parties with a single-item agenda to break up Europe. So how does that work?
Each time the European Parliament meets, half the people there want to pass a vote to not be there anymore. All this, by the way, comes while taking thousands of dollars a month in expenses and wages from the organization they claim to despise. Not quite sure how that will help to make the world a better place.
In a very real sense, I suspect the lunatics have taken over the asylum.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, the city of York has a little problem. The medieval walled city is a marvellous place, and for many years has pursued an aggressive policy to discourage car use in the city center.
Strategic edge-of-city park-and-ride carparks, linked to the city by fast bus services, mean that for most people, it is quicker and cheaper to access the city this way, and many of the narrow city streets are “pedestrianized,” so walking ’round is easy.
In August, York introduced some further restrictions in two places in the city, and has enforced the restrictions using CCTV and posted citations. Now less than a year later, the Traffic Penalty Tribunal (the body that rules on challenged parking tickets) has ruled that the city has no powers to issue these tickets, and that the 50,000 penalties that have been issued are void and presumably have to be repaid. That’s north of $2.5 million the city could have to find.
How did this happen? Because the law is an ass.
York has the power to make the restriction, and the law allows the city to enforce the restriction when it’s implemented; or rather, it doesn’t. That’s because although the law has existed for 10 years, the civil servants in London haven’t got around to switching it on yet, meaning that enforcement is still a police responsibility and lays about 999 tasks on their top 100 priority ones.
The necessary powers for York to act have been working in London for nearly 15 years without the capital “disappearing up its own fundament,” but the chaps at Whitehall don’t want to rush things.
As I get older, the attractions of a simple cull of certain members of society seem to become more and more attractive. But I am sure that many of them would say the same about me (get in line, John, get in line).
We have just had another of those shock horror stories published over here in the UK, and I wonder why no one ever takes a step back and asks the question as to why?
Apparently, the 33 London boroughs collected some $523 million from using cameras to enforce traffic and parking restrictions. Now the media equate $523 million of driving fines (probably about 3 million offenses detected) with some sort of act of repression against the great British motoring public by an evil grasping “them.”
Indeed, the minister who should know better endorsed this view without showing the faintest sign of understanding what he was talking about, or indeed, one suspects, of being able to find his arse with both hands and a route map. The Councils take the moral high ground and witter-on about the need to do this to hold back the forces of darkness, aka BMW drivers.
But what about the question as to why? Why is it that several million people broke the law? If these transgressions were as a result of an error of judgment, why are the restrictions so hard to understand and comply with?
Shouldn’t the Councils survey offenders to find out if this is true, and if it is, shouldn’t the government sit down and look at better ways to make the restrictions clear, instead of attacking the Councils for using the powers that the government gave them in the way that was presumably intended when the law was made?
If the transgression was as a result of a rational choice, why do these people think they have the right to break the law for their own convenience? Would we accept this type of behavior in any other type of situation? Would we allow the excuse of personal need and convenience for theft, for example? No, of course we wouldn’t, so why is “crime by car” any different?
And what about the Councils? All the traffic management and parking powers that a council has in the UK have to be exercised after taking account of the need to access property and local amenity. There are streets in London where properties are Victorian or earlier, so there is no off-street parking, and so the only place to park is the street. In some of these streets, the Councils have banned all parking and issue up to a thousand parking citations a week.
Could any rational person argue that the Councils have taken account of the access needs of the buildings in that street? Of course not. I do not know of any council that ever looks at places where it issues a lot of tickets and sees this as a reason to look harder at what they do – and perhaps even wonder if they might just have got it wrong – rather than see the need to turn up the enforcement flame. Perhaps they should.
I do not understand this at all: Apcoa Parking AG is one of the biggest parking companies in the world, with more than 1 million spaces across Europe. Based in Stuttgart, it has debts of 640 million euros (about U.S. $855 million) in buyout loans, and payment for at least some of this was due its creditors April 25.
In mid-April, the German company secured a ruling in UK courts to have the loan-extension process (known as a “scheme of arrangement”), administered under UK law, get this deadline pushed to July 25, with a possible extension to Oct. 25.
“Apcoa changed the jurisdiction governing its debt to England,” reported, “so that it could apply for a loan extension in a London court, according to a company filing.”
So, if you can’t pay your debts and are about to go bust in one country, you move the debt to somewhere with less-stringent solvency laws. Simple.

Peter Guest, a Consultant in the UK, is PT’s Editor-at-Large on all things British, European, Middle Eastern and Indian. Contact him at

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