In a week when my car was unceremoniously seriously injured by a motorist (thanks, Mr Farmer) who blamed me (the oncoming traffic) after he thought it’d be ok to execute a right turn across the carriageway from a stationary, parked position without indication or regard for oncoming traffic, I thought things couldn’t get much worse. So there I was, unloading my hire car in the loading bay in front of the Courtlands Hotel in Hove, for a breakfast business meeting, thinking “it’d be just my luck to be ticketed in a loading bay, but at least I’m loading”… only to return to the car at 8:25am in the middle of loading again to see a traffic warden – sorry, Civil Enforcement Officer – issuing a parking ticket – sorry, Penalty Charge Notice (PCN). I’ve had experience of these before, of course, and rarely as a result of illegal parking – see “One Hour’s Parking for the Price of Two” for the last piece of Brighton & Hove City Council idiocy.

This particular traffic warden (number 685 – from his “signature” he’s called Mr Squiggle) seemed to be taking far too much pleasure from the mere routine issue of a piece of bureaucratic paperwork, as do many of them. It’s important to realise that Brighton & Hove City Council’s Civil Enforcement Officers – please let’s just call them traffic wardens for sanity’s sake – are not given direct incentives or enticements to issue tickets, which might encourage them to issue more and more marginal tickets in order to achieve their personal or set targets. No, that would just be good old plain wrong. However according to Brighton & Hove City Council staff, absolutely nothing is done to prevent staff from maintaining private bets and sweepstakes which might engender an undue sense of competition between traffic wardens, and according to at least one member of staff these are rife. Such activities in other sectors would be regarded as acts of gross professional misconduct, but the parking business is rather different. In addition, there is strong first-hand evidence to suggest that the Council sets targets for parking revenues, and that traffic wardens who are underperforming face disciplinary action and loss of employment. OK, so scratch my “no direct incentives or enticements” statement… I think you can safely say that there are incredibly strong incentives for staff to issue as many parking tickets as possible.

Of course the system is built with no flexibility – or indeed politeness. Once you’ve been issued with a ticket, the only ways out are through the system and out the other side – either by written appeal, paying the penalty, or fighting bailiffs (which the Council parking staff love to threaten you with) & going to court. So once that ticket is printed out from the proudly wielded little electronic device the traffic wardens all carry, it has already cost you time and money. Since this ticket was issued wrongly, I should be charging for my time spent on the matter by invoicing the Council and chasing for the debt – but there’s no “sorry we cocked up” latitude built into the system either. Parking has been set in legislation as a legalised racket which Councils and private firms can exploit to their hearts’ content.

And all the little hitlers can go on having fun and making money at our expense – twice – because while we pay with our Council Tax for their perversely pleasurable little betting games, we also pay for the entire machine to grind away raking in our parking fines too. What an utter waste of time, money and resources. Please, Mr Osborne, how about we cut the parking bureaucracy first?

See also Testing the Parking Tribunal and Parking Tribunal Victory over Brighton & Hove City Council