Hamill’s Beat - End the cat and mouse game with traffic wardens

Alan Lewis - Photopress Belfast    18/2/2009'Picture by Justin Kernoghan'A Traffic Warden working in the Diamond area (background, Londonderry's famous Guild Hall) off Londonderry today - Police in Londonderry have described as "despicable" a threat made against against traffic wardens and TV licensing officials.'A parishioner at Long Tower church found a letter from a group calling itself the Bogside Republican Action Group on a pew on Sunday.'Police have said they are working to establish whether it came from an organisation or individual.'Chief Inspector Chris Yates said the letter threatened to "use force".'"The paramilitary groupings within the city need to come out and make a statement," he said.'"They need to say whether they are involved with this or not, so we can assess the actual level of this threat, so these people can get on with their work."

Alan Lewis - Photopress Belfast 18/2/2009'Picture by Justin Kernoghan'A Traffic Warden working in the Diamond area (background, Londonderry's famous Guild Hall) off Londonderry today - Police in Londonderry have described as "despicable" a threat made against against traffic wardens and TV licensing officials.'A parishioner at Long Tower church found a letter from a group calling itself the Bogside Republican Action Group on a pew on Sunday.'Police have said they are working to establish whether it came from an organisation or individual.'Chief Inspector Chris Yates said the letter threatened to "use force".'"The paramilitary groupings within the city need to come out and make a statement," he said.'"They need to say whether they are involved with this or not, so we can assess the actual level of this threat, so these people can get on with their work."

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Angry spats are common on radio moan-in programmes. It’s part of their DNA. But it was unusual, the other day, when Gerry Anderson slammed a spokesman for traffic wardens on Stephen Nolan’s show.

We usually get good-natured banter between the presenters as Nolan wraps his “biggest show in the country” up and hands over to Anderson, but this had a serious tone.

Strabane businessman, Patrick Kelly had been on air complaining about “over zealous” traffic wardens “killing” business in the town. They were “putting customers and shoppers off,” he said. Mr Kelly was followed by the spokesman defending the wardens on the basis that they had to be, “consistent about the rules”. As the show came to an end, Gerry Anderson intervened.

He asked if wardens got commission. He thought the Strabane man was right.

He accused the redcoats of having, “no commonsense or heart”. There “should be a little leeway,” he said. When the spokesman insisted the wardens got no incentive payments and that to pay them commission would be illegal, Anderson said he thought that made their zealous behaviour even harder to understand.

Sean Coyle later said he thought the wardens have a beneficial effect.

He says it’s much easier to find a parking spot in Derry now that restrictions are being enforced. Drivers do have to move on within an hour, making it possible for others to find a spot and so avoid paying for off-street parking. Many will agree.

This is a significant benefit but it comes at too high a communal ‘cost’. It encourages drivers to cruise around searching for a spot, thus adding to congestion. It also comes at the cost of a continuous, unnecessary, unseemly, nerve-wrecking, expensive, ridiculous and visitor unfriendly, cat-and-mouse game with redcoats. It just isn’t sensible for this ‘game’ to be played out relentlessly in all our town centres.

My own cardinal principle in life is that all unnecessary rules should be abolished. (The world is divided into just two classes of people. There are those who can’t stop themselves from making up rules and those who can’t stand sticking to them.)

Parking restrictions should be massively simplified. Parking should only be prohibited where it really would cause an obstruction. Apart from that, it should be a case of first come, first served. Then if business people and their staff are in town early and take up all the on-street parking they’ll have to take responsibility for their own actions. If potential customers can’t park on the street then it’s the business people’s loss.

That shouldn’t concern officialdom. They should just concern themselves with providing adequate off-street parking. That’s the only real solution. Derry is terribly short of low cost car parks. When they have been provided, let free markets rip. It’s more, “heartsome” that way, as my mother would have said.

With fewer rules, signage could be simplified, complex street markings reduced and the excessive ‘army’ of enforcers could become surplus to requirements. Happy days!