Parking Tales From Big Ben

A Parking Scam and Brexit

January, 2021

Peter Guest

Just today, the BBC ran a story about a parking scam. I don’t know if you have this in the states, but over here there is a business renting out people’s driveways and/or office parking for other people to use. 

The model is simple. Suppose you live in a town where parking is expensive and scarce and you have a parking spot you don’t need? You contact the company and they rent your parking space to someone through a web page. Everybody wins. The parker gets a convenient guaranteed parking space below market price; the owner gets income from an un-used asset, and, of course, the website operator gets a cut. So, where’s the scam? Simple, someone has worked out that you can register someone else’s property and collect, without having to own anything.

This seems to work particularly well when they “rent” a space belonging to an apartment that is available to rent. If the place is vacant there is no one looking to legally use the space and, even if a tenant moves in, they will most probably just put it down to bad parking by other tenants. The scam was exposed when a renter thoughtfully left his booking details on his dashboard. The owner looked on the site and was very surprised to find her space listed. Another landlord resorted to installing lockable bollards to protect his site. Now, fly parking on private land has always been a problem, but to actually rent out other people’s places, via a third-party website, is going to another level.

The website owner was, of course, very apologetic, but to my mind that doesn’t cut it. They “have stringent checks in place,” but clearly not that stringent. How about writing to the address to validate the deal before listing the property or verifying the address where they sent the money? No, because they are web-based and do financial transactions online This is a slam-dunk fraud, and since they sent the money somewhere, why aren’t the police knocking on the door? They rely on someone calling foul rather than proper checking.

Ah, Brexit, Britain’s very public act of self-destruction grinds on to what seems an inevitable end. As of today, there is no hint of a trade deal between us and “the foreigners” who quite unreasonably don’t think that they should subsume their best interests to our demands. One of our trade ministers has trumpeted a new deal with Japan. The PR suggest that trade with that country would double more or less overnight. But nasty, cynical people, like international trade experts, are just a little surprised that anyone thinks that there are billions of pounds of frustrated trade between us that have been ruthlessly suppressed for decades by the EU/ Japan trade deal. Words like “fantasy” and “delusional” are being bandied around.

Closer to home, on January 1, there was an immediate impact at the channel ports, where most of the trade between Britain and Europe, and beyond enters or leaves the country. The government is “preparing” for this by running an increasingly strident media campaign warning haulers of a new documenting regime that they should prepare for, or face delays. Tiny weeny problem, six weeks to go and there is no resolution of just what form the new regime will take. The best guess is that there will be a 76-mile queue of heavy trucks stretching from Dover to central London and beyond. It will typically take three days to get onto a ferry; and one suspects drivers will spend a similar time clearing French authorities on the other side. Methinks not a good scenario for fresh food shippers.

In anticipation of this, the government has taken emergency powers to build Lory parking in Kent. Estimates suggest that a 500-acre-plus site would be needed (the land doesn’t exist) to keep the roads clear. Knowing how the UK construction industry works, getting this open before 2022 is unlikely. In a desperate attempt to manage this, the government is proposing to close Kent to trucks and only allow vehicles with a permit to enter. But Kent is the end of the road, no one is going there unless that’s their destination, or they want to get on a ferry. So, the permit program would be pointless, verging on stupid and a vast bureaucratic exercise for no purpose.

So, what is the future for the United Kingdom? There is now a clear majority in Scotland for independence. In Ulster, which voted 56 percent to stay in Europe, for the first time, since Irish Independence in 1922, more votes were cast for parties supporting reunification than for maintaining the union with the rest of the UK. Wales (voted leave) has so far remained silent on the future of the union.

Peter – I know you wrote this in November. Can you follow up next month with what happened in the 76-mile long queue? Thanks, JVH.