Shahrar Ali, a Green Party candidate at both this years local and last years national elections, sent me an email yesterday on a topic important to car-owners – Penalty Charge Notices, or, rather, f’ing-tickets, as I’m sure most of us refer to them. Shahrar told me about meeting Brent residents while campaigning during the local elections and a common gripe that came up – being issued with a ticket on a public holiday.

He writes:

“Trouble is, “Restrictions apply on Bank Holidays” signage is to be found only on some of the posts as one enters the zone. But most people, reasonably in my view, take their cue from the signage in the bays – which without any explicit indication to the contrary they will assume does not apply on public holidays.

Brent can’t have it both ways. Had the assumption not been justified there would hardly be a need for the additional signage. The trouble is these signs are not fit for purpose, ie. noticeable.

What’s at issue? Nobody likes to get a fine at the best of times, but the suspicion is that signage has been erected to maximise the chances of catching people out and making a quick buck. That’s dishonest and only fuels resentment towards local government – increasing cynicsm and eroding trust in public or democratic institutions, moreover.”

Shahrar made a reuqest under the Freedom of Information Act for data from Brent Council on the volume of parking tickets issued in a single Controled Parking Zone in Brent on both Bank Holiday Mondays and the normal Mondays preceeding and following them.

Shahrar writes: “The results of my request surely confirm that the majority of drivers have been caught out on public holidays not because they were “trying to get away with it” (in the words of one council official) but because they were duped.”

“The figures below are well into DOUBLE FIGURES for all the recent public holidays in April and May, but remain in single figures (and many times less) for the same days of the week only one week before or after that (the data control set).”

Freedom of Information Act 2000 – Penalty Charge Notices in KR-CPZ – Dates followed by Number of Penalty Charge Notices:

  • Friday 7 April 2006: 4
  • Friday 14 April 2006 [Good Friday]: 27
  • Monday 17 April 2006 [Easter Monday]: 30
  • Monday 24 April 2006: 6
  • Monday 1 May 2006 [Bank Holiday]: 47
  • Monday 22 May 2006: 9
  • Monday 29 May 2006 [Bank Holiday]: 58

[source: Brent Council, 2 Aug 2006]

“It hardly looks as if word is getting round! That’s only for one zone covering a handful of streets. It must be quite a money spinner borough-wide. Indeed, not all our zones get the same treatment, only adding to the confusion.”

“NB. For avoidance of doubt, I do not think that dishonest parking fines is a legitimate means to turn people away from using their cars, even if I’d like to reduce such

dependency!”