Seasonal cheer for fined parkers

PUBLISHED: 12:50 26 January 2006 | UPDATED: 20:19 03 May 2010

SIR, - Mr Graham Hall (Herts Advertiser, January 19) has brought to my attention the unfortunate situation on December 23 when some Christmas shoppers received a fine for parking in the Herts Highways bays in the St Albans Civic Centre car park during the

SIR, - Mr Graham Hall (Herts Advertiser, January 19) has brought to my attention the unfortunate situation on December 23 when some Christmas shoppers received a fine for parking in the Herts Highways bays in the St Albans Civic Centre car park during the afternoon despite tickets being purchased and the council and highways staff having left work early for the Christmas break and their spaces therefore not being required. Having investigated the circumstances around this incident, I unreservedly apologise on behalf of the council to him and to all the other drivers who were similarly penalised and for the allegedly-unsympathetic attitude of parking attendants. There was clearly a breakdown in communication between the council, Herts Highways and the NCP car-parking attendants and we failed to make it clear to the NCP that the whole of the Civic Centre car park would be available for public parking from lunchtime that day when staff left. I am advised that some 16 drivers were penalised and I can confirm therefore that I have agreed that all those who paid and displayed and yet still received penalty notices for parking in the Herts Highways reserved spaces will have their penalty notices cancelled. And in the case of those who have already paid the fine, they will have their payment returned. This incident, taken with other recent cases reported in your newspaper involving disabled drivers who have received penalty notices for displaying out-of-date discs without any caution being given first, concerns me greatly. I have therefore requested that the penalty notices relating to these recent other incidents should also be cancelled. Further, I am both seeking an early meeting with NCP's management to discuss these concerns and have also initiated a full review with the council's staff and Portfolio Holder of the current parking enforcement policies, the sensitivities around implementing these and the need for customer-care training. My aim is to find an improved way to achieve greater discretion and common sense in the future in situations like these. The council's contract with NCP is monitored by council officers at fortnightly operational meetings and by the Car Parking Working Party, which is led by the Portfolio Holder and councillors, and by the Parking Board. Performance indicators are used to evaluate the contract but I have been assured that the total number of penalty notices issued is not used as a means of good or positive contractual performance. Furthermore, there is no link made between the number of penalty notices issued by individual parking attendants and any bonuses received by them. I hope that this apology and assurance will go some way to make up for the lack of pre-Christmas cheer and goodwill that Mr Hall and other shoppers regrettably experienced last month. I would just advise readers however that this spirit of goodwill cannot, I regret, extend to everybody who got a legitimate parking ticket over Christmas! CLLR ROBERT DONALD, Chair St Albans District Council Cabinet.

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