If I had to choose a favourite from the three scrutiny committees it would be
Places. Mainly because it covers a subject which most of us encounter every day,
the Public Realm, and because its chairman councillor Melvin Seymour plays it
straight without any hint of being too officious or an ambition to be a
comedian. Not that things are entirely humourless but somehow he strikes just
the right balance. Maybe he is lucky to be supported by councillors who are not
all members of the awkward squad although that was something difficult to check
last night as members of the public were afforded their usual excellent view.
Unfortunately last night’s Places meeting was not the most interesting I have ever attended.
The first major item on the Agenda was the Annual Parking Services Performance Report in which the joint Bexley and Bromley manager Ben Stevens tries to portray himself as a reasonable man.
In some ways Bexley’s is a more benign regime than many councils in London with only Lewisham, Havering, Sutton and Greenwich issuing fewer parking penalties (PCNs).
Mr. Stevens said that the new 30 minute parking tariff had been well received and the swingeing increases to the long stay tariffs had had the desired effect - driving away commuters.
In common with other boroughs the number of PCNs issued has been falling but the number of appeals going to the adjudicator at 1·5% is above average. Half were successful. Councillor Seán Newman thought that was a figure that reflected badly on Bexley council.
Parking services made a profit of £1,065,000 excluding car park revenue.
Councillor Val Clark was concerned that there were twelve incidents in the year in which Civil Enforcement Officers were abused but only one prosecution. Councillor Gareth Bacon suggested that the police’s attitude to a very serious assault captured on body worn CCTV was that they “couldn’t be bothered” and they “made decisions which are clearly ridiculous”. In future, he said, the cabinet member (Peter Craske) should become involved and put pressure on the police to take action. Councillor Craske is only too well aware that Bexley police can be reluctant to pursue law breakers.
Councillor Joe Ferreira said that when the 50 pence rate was introduced the street signs relating to pay by phone showed the wrong price and in some cases people were being charged incorrectly.
Mr. Stevens said the problem had affected only “a couple of locations” and only “dozens” of customers and it was all resolved within a couple of days.
Councillor Newman asked whether Bexley was likely to adopt Bromley’s policy of charging the disabled for parking when the two services are fully amalgamated this time next year. Deputy Leader Alex Sawyer said “at the end of the day we have to look at all areas of finance and if it is a route we have to go down it is a route we have to go down”.
Councillor Brian Bishop asked Ben Stevens to define ‘parking outside the bay’. It's wheels outside the bay, not body overhang.
Councillor Stefano Borella remarked on the high number (3,033) of penalties written off. Among the reasons given by Mr. Stevens perhaps the most surprising was his assertion that the records held by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency are “only 90% accurate at any given time”.
Councillor John Davey commented on the fact that Bexley has the highest car ownership per head of any London borough. Perhaps with no Underground, no Overground, no trams, no riverboat service and too many meandering bus routes, that is not so very surprising.