I've got the hump with my Community Group colleague Councillor Paul Fisher at the moment.
It was Paul who, acting in his capacity as Lead Member for Parking at the London Borough of Hounslow, introduced free parking for the first hour to the new car park in Brentford High Street. In doing so he made struggling businesses along the High Street more attractive to passing trade, a particularly needed boost during a time of economic hardship. Now drivers can stop to buy a newspaper, eat at a café, or even get their hair cut or do a bit of shopping without having to factor in the additional cost of parking their car in order to do so.
The problem for me yesterday morning was that, in a senior moment amid my eagerness to cross the road and distribute some leaflets to residents at Brentford Lock, I forgot to get a ticket from the machine which would have told the attendant at what time my free hour had commenced. As a consequence I returned to a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN), leaving me a cool thirty quid lighter for my empty-headedness.
Yesterday was only the third time that I'd ever received one of these damned violation things. On the first occasion an over-eager attendant ticketed me in a council car park which I was entitled to be in. On the second (in neighbouring Richmond) I entered a bus lane ever so slightly sooner than I ought to have done in order to effect a left turn. Both times I appealed to the Parking & Traffic Appeals Service (PTAS) and won my case. This time though it is different. It's a fair cop guv.
Under recent government legislation we as councillors are not permitted to interfere in the issuing and progress of PCNs to our constituents, much to the chagrin of many of them. Most weeks we are contacted by somebody or other who wasn't aware of the regulations, their ticket fell off the windscreen or whatever. Sometimes their challenges are clearly frivolous, at other times they appear on the surface to have some kind of case. All we are able to do is explain the appeals process to them.
I shouldn't be ungenerous. In Paul's hands the parking regime has become much more customer-focussed, more flexible and responsive to particular local needs, and less profit-driven. This is how it should be.
I hope the residents of Brentford Lock enjoyed our latest leaflet and, if any of them are reading this, please be impressed by the sacrifices we make to get news and information to your letterbox.