Car-owning Camdenists are falling foul of a potential flaw in the residents’ parking permit scheme. Two residents highlighted in the Guardian’s consumer pages here and here, have been hit with hefty fines, towing and storage charges when their cars were removed by Camden council.
The expensive result of forgetting to renew the permit? Perhaps, but there are two key points mentioned in both cases: the permits don’t have an expiry date on them and there seems to be some dispute over whether reminders are sent. Sure, in a perfect world, the owners would have made a note of when their permit was due for renewal and taken care of it. Camden’s website even allows renewal online and gives a discount for doing so. But this ain’t a perfect world.
The obvious answer would be to print an expiry date on the permit rather than just a bar code which can only be read by a traffic warden. It would mean physically changing the permit each year, but it would also save the costs of sending a reminder letter out, and with an estimated budget gap of £80-£100m over the next three years, Camden is clearly in need of some cost-saving measures. It would also be a lot fairer on residents who are paying up to £156 per year to park in the borough. But would Camden have an interest in closing a loophole with such an obvious benefit?
The speed with which the cars are towed could also be described as somewhat opportunistic – according to the council, a seven-day grace period is granted, yet the two aforementioned residents reportedly had their cars removed less than an hour and a half after they were ticketed, a blatant breach of the council’s own policy.
We contacted Camden council’s press office and a spokesperson said:
'The expiry date is not printed onto the permit, and there are no proposals to do so. When the permits are posted to residents the covering letter has a detachable sticky label that shows the expiry date for residents to attach to the permit. Reminder letters are posted one week before the expiry date. If residents have asked for an email reminder we send an email. People who claim not to have received reminder letters should contact us directly so that we can identify potential patterns.'
Residents’ parking schemes are a bit of a contentious subject — on one hand they mean that local residents can park vaguely near their houses. They also discourage commuters from clogging up the streets near stations. But once a scheme is in place, the residents don’t seem to have much say in it. Residents in Barnet kicked off earlier this year after fees for their parking permits increased by up to 150% — and they didn’t get much sympathy from the council either, who called them ‘hysterical’.
Have you had your car towed away by Camden council (or any other authority) after your permit expired? We’d like to hear about it in the comments.
Update: Camden council have advised that a penalty charge notice is issued after the 7 day period is up and then removal can occur at any point after that depending on the level of enforcement in that area at the time. They have specified that they do not remove cars without first issuing a ticket.