They are politicians – what did you expect?


They are politicians – what did you expect?

Here in the UK, two councillors in Northumberland have been accused of “hypocrisy” over their rather variable views on parking charges.
John Riddle and Anthony Murray supported a campaign by fellow conservatives on Northumberland County Council for free parking for all residents in the run-up to Christmas, but a week later voted in favor of increasing parking charges in Northumberland National Park, where the councillors are, respectively, Chairman and Vice Chairman of the park authority.
The pair of politicians justified the vote for free parking as being a way of stimulating trade in the market towns, whereas the car parks in the national park are “an essential revenue source” for the authority.
I think it might be simpler than that. Car parks in the market towns are operated and paid for by the District Councils; so a County Council vote for free parking there is spending someone else’s money, and any fallout is someone else’s problem. As leaders of the park authority, the County Councillors would carry the can. Simple!
When I was President of the British Parking Association (BPA), about a zillion years ago, we launched the Institute of Parking Professionals (IPP). The BPA is a trade body whose members are corporate entities, that is commercial companies, municipalities and the like.
At the time, our industry was, and still is, getting a lot of flak, and the IPP was set up to give professional status to individuals in the business. Individuals working in parking could join what we hoped would, in time, become a fully recognized professional body, with different levels of membership depending on experience and qualifications.
I proudly became member No. 1 and added the appellation “Fellow of the Institute of Parking Professionals” to my CV. Sadly, the idea never really got off the ground, and the BPA, which managed the institute, has decided to close its books after several years of not quite making it.
The association has created a new set of membership grades to accommodate individuals into the BPA, making it both a trade organization and a body representing industry individuals. And the IPP is consigned to history.
I am no longer in the loop, so I do not know what the underlying reasons for the failure were. But I do regret the loss of what could have been a very good thing and do wonder just how the dynamics and politics of the new style hybrid BPA will work.
Judging, and partying
By the time you read this, I will have done another round of judging for the annual British Parking Association awards. This event allows our industry to highlight some of the best of what we do each year.
Categories range from best new and best refurbished carparks through technological innovation to best teams, customer service awards and “Parking Person” of the year – an award that is more likely to go to the guy who helps the old ladies with their shopping than to a manager on an ego trip, and yes, we have had a few of those over the years.
In all honesty the BPA awards ceremony is all an excuse for a party, and culminates in a meal and a piss-up for a few hundred people, with a UK TV “personality” handing out prizes to the winners. It’s a bit like the Oscars, but with more drunkenness.
Although it’s a bit of fun, it has a more serious aspect; in an industry that is attacked from all sides and only ever represented in the media by negative stories, it allows our people to actually receive some recognition for a job well done.
Do as I say, not as I do
Meanwhile, horror-shock, “motorists are paying more than $1.6 billion a year for public parking” in the UK, according to some recently published statistics from “researchers.” That’s actually only about 20 cents per car per day, but that figure doesn’t have quite the same resonance.
But of course the big figure gives the government-of-none-of-the-talents another opportunity to knock parking, and Conservative (remember that word, you’ll need it later) Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has attacked this as “a great council cash-cow cover-up.” He described it as a ‘’shopping tax,’’ hitting main business streets, and accused councils of waging a ‘’local war against motorists.’’
This is a minister from the government who hired a retailer to carry out a study of the reasons behind all the closed shops in our nation’s main business streets – a study that then came up with the amazing conclusion that the economy could be saved by the simple expedient of giving free parking, although the facts show the converse.
The government then adopted this as policy. Anyhow, I wander off the point (it’s my age).
The worst offenders in Pickles’ world are (drum roll) Westminster, the Conservative (said you would need that word) flagship council, which raises about $1,000 per household per year. By comparison “the opposition” Labour-controlled councils average a rather more modest $40 per household per year. Methinks a case of foot-in-mouth disease.
Note on the above: Hilary Benn, Pickles’ opposite number in the Labour Party, managed to say pretty much the same thing about a tax on shoppers while blaming everything on Westminster, which just goes to show that stupidity is not the preserve of one party.
I just love this story
I am getting old and sometimes forgetful. I told my wife that I forgot to switch the gas off after cooking a meal because I was so stunned by her beauty, but she wasn’t convinced, so I just love this:
Entrepreneur Desmond Grootboom of Johannesburg, South Africa, received a $5,000 parking bill after “forgetting” that he had parked his car at the city’s OR Tambo International Airport in November 2011. He had arranged for a friend to collect it, but something went wrong. Grootboom apparently forgot about the car, and 14 months later, the Airports Company SA presented him with the parking bill, which is more than the book value of his 2001 Renault Clio. To add insult to injury, the police gave him a $60 ticket because the registration had expired.

Peter Guest is a consultant in the UK and PT’s correspondent on all things parking in Britain, Europe and the Middle East. He can be reached at


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