Season of goodwill

PUBLISHED: 12:17 19 January 2006 | UPDATED: 20:19 03 May 2010

SIR, - Picture the scene: Friday, December 23, 2005, 3pm - it's the last weekday before Christmas. The centre of St Albans is heaving with shoppers. Cars are everywhere, car parks are full and queuing. Various clever dicks are parking in all sorts of dang

SIR, - Picture the scene: Friday, December 23, 2005, 3pm - it's the last weekday before Christmas. The centre of St Albans is heaving with shoppers. Cars are everywhere, car parks are full and queuing. Various clever dicks are parking in all sorts of dangerous places. The law-abiding among us who want to support St Albans traders seek out somewhere appropriate to park rather than go to Watford where it would be both simpler and cheaper. The council buildings have, of course, been locked shut since at least lunchtime and all the staff have gone home. The Herts Highways reserved spaces in the Civic Centre car park are all empty - their staff long gone too. Unfortunately, given their well-documented malevolence to visitors by car, it's not hard to imagine the response of St Albans District Council and their NCP traffic wardens: "The Herts Highways reserved spaces are all empty - but it's still a weekday. So we can slap £60 fines on anyone who parks there even if they've paid and displayed properly. Never mind the reason or justice; there's money to be made here." Unfortunately the above is not imagination at all. It happened. Now I am writing to complain about the council's behaviour and that of NCP. 1.) I would like council leader Cllr Robert Donald and the boss of NCP to confirm that all parking tickets issued against vehicles in those bays on that afternoon will be cancelled. 2.) I would like them both to confirm that there will be no repeat when the Herts Highways spaces are not required on weekdays. This serves no-one's interests other than the shareholders of NCP. I also wish to complain about the actions of one of the traffic wardens who, while happily taking photographs of another vehicle in a Herts Highways bay: n Admitted that he knew the offices were shut and the reserved spaces no longer required. n Confirmed that the council had given him instructions to target that particular area - this was backed up by another warden outside the Alban Arena n Finally had the cheek to depart with a deeply-sarcastic "and a merry Christmas to you too" This blatantly-unreasonable behaviour only confirms long-held suspicions that both the council, NCP and their individual employees are simply out to make life difficult for, and make money out of, visitors to St Albans by car. Reason will not even be considered if there is a chance of slapping on a parking ticket. I fail to understand why the council and NCP employ individuals whose attitude can only be described as bureaucratic and jobsworth and whose inclination is to blindly follow rules rather than apply sense and use a customer's focus. Clearly they have never read the blurb on the NCP's website which, in pitching for local authority business, talks of "sensitive enforcement" and "high customer satisfaction and low complaints". I would like both Cllr Donald and the boss of NCP to confirm that the parking attendant will be disciplined about the incident; that in future all attendants will be briefed to be reasonable in their work; and that this incident will be used as an example in training on how not to act. I would also like Cllr Donald to explain how the council measures NCP against their contractual obligations; whether the contents of NCP's website quoted above represents mere hot air for the purpose of sales or is enforceable as part of the contract; what recompense the city will receive as a result of NCP's recent attempt to trick visitors into paying to park outside chargeable hours by using misleading signposting (still on display and not decently rectified); and how exactly these incidents represent "working in partnership" by NCP with the residents of the city and district - or is this tag line just more hot air? I look forward to their prompt response to the points above and their plans to rectify the wrongs they have committed. GRAHAM HALL, Eastbury Court, St Albans.

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