Sunday, 24 March 2013

Penzance parking, Cornwall Council needs to use more carrot and less stick

If there's one thing that Cornwall Council does or doesn't do that annoys me more than anything on a day to day basis, and the most complaints I've heard from people about the council in my neighbourhood it's on street parking. The policy seems to be entirely dictated by employing more and more traffic wardens (civil enforcement officers in newspeak) and issuing more and more fines. A story researched by the Cornishman just over 12 months ago revealed a huge rise in the revenue raised by parking fines after the number of tickets issued rose nearly tenfold from the year before. As a response to massive cuts to Cornwall Council's funding it is obvious that the Tory led administration has targeted parking as a means of raising revenue. The same hypocritical Tories tell us that raising council tax by a small fraction is too much for people to pay, yet £35 a pop fines doesn't seem to be governed by the same logic.

It's an awful habit of governments and councils of all colours across the UK to issue fines as a means of controlling behaviour. Pay your tax late fine, park your car in your own street fine, drive a car fuel duty, smoke or drink pay duty. It's not just Cornwall Council to blame it's embedded in the very fabric of administration. Punishment in the form of cash penalties trumps positive incentives every time. The default policy is stick first carrot second. I don't think this is either fair or productive.

If you have a problem you need to look at it from both sides. In the example of parking Cornwall Council has decided streets like mine (St James street) and many others in Penzance and no doubt across Cornwall, shouldn't have parking both sides. Thus one side has a yellow line and parking restrictions, eagerly enforced by the regular traffic warden patrols. The rate at which people are getting fined indicates that the policy is not working (unless profiting is the aim). So what are the other solutions? The obvious one is getting people to park elsewhere, its easy to point to the underused car parks in towns St Erbyn's and St Anthony's being prime examples and the Harbour car park less so but still consistently with spare spaces. My colleague in Mebyon Kernow Cornwall Councillor Tamsin Williams has consistently argued and lobbied for car parks and their revenues to be granted to Penzance town council. Which is a great idea the policy emanating from Truro doesn't best suit Penzance it should be up to us here to decide what is best for the town, shoppers and residents. So using the available resources better is one way, encourage parking in car parks (a novel idea!).


The justification for having single yellow lines on Penzance's streets is to allow larger vehicles to access the roads, prime examples are ambulances and fire engines but thankfully aren't that common. I wonder if this really is the concern and whether they're really thought it through. After all the restrictions are uniformly in place 8am until 5pm monday to saturday, so these emergency vehicles can get access during office hours only and not sundays!?! Lorries is of course the primary reason In the six years I have lived on this street, I have seen two or three occasions when there has been a problem. Even with cars parked either side the majority of the time lorries can find their way through, the problem only arises when people park on the narrowest parts of the street or when cars are parked more than a foot away from the kerb. Which is a problem of that there's no doubt. Its doesn't in my opinion warrant restrictions on everyone though. Not only more carrot but also more common sense is needed.

If the people of Penzance East lay their faith in me and choose me to represent them on Cornwall Council and on Penzance town council I want to address the problem of parking in Penzance. I won't promise the earth in this regard, I'd love to tell people that I will reduce parking fees by x amount and sack traffic wardens and such things outside the power of a Cornwall councilor. But I don't want to just deliver leaflets with wild promises I want to deliver promises I can actually do. I would if elected work to get more sensible parking policies in Penzance. Parking ticket prices are too high in Penzance, that's why the car parks are vastly under used. The policy of issuing fines for very small transgressions unfairly punishes residents. People should have the right to park near their own houses. These are some of the things I would want to address on Cornwall Council. I'm not the kind of bloke that wants to merely bitch and moan at policies and make the same pledges time and again, I'm the kind of bloke that wants change, I'm not standing for election to take pops at the administration, I see things in Penzance East I'd like to change, to my mind that's what Cornwall Councillors ought to be doing.