Motorists allowed to park on double yellow lines to help save high streets

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Eric Pickles, the Local Government Secretary, is proposing to give drivers a “grace period” to allow them to park outside shops or keep their vehicles in parking bays for longer.

In an attempt to strike a deal with their Liberal Democrat colleagues, the Conservatives are also proposing to allow higher parking fines outside the capital for people who park dangerously.

The Tories hope that the plans, which would represent the biggest shake up to parking fines in Britain for more than a decade, can be implemented within months to help revive ailing High Streets.

A source close to Mr Pickles said: “The High Street is in danger of shrinking or dying off, and over-aggressive parking enforcement is part of the reason why.

“If people are worried about paying a fortune in parking fines, it will make them more likely to do their shop online or go to out of town shopping centres. For too long parking has been a revenue raiser. It’s time to end that.

“There is room for a deal [with the Liberal Democrats]. Dangerous parking is a menace to people, whereas if you’re in the parking bay or just on the side of the road you’re not presenting any risk.”

However, the Conservatives are likely to meet with resistance from their Coallition colleagues, who have raised concerns that a grace period will prove “unworkable”.

They also want to seek the cap on parking fines lifted for all illegal parking, not just dangerous parking. At present, the cap on parking fees outside London is £70, compared to £130 in the capital.

Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat transport minister, said: “We are keen to ensure that the High Street works for businesses by stopping people parking illegally for hours on end.

“I have been in discussions with other colleagues from government about how we can best take decisions on this forward.

“This is about tackling motorists who are parking illegally, not about raising charges for those who park legally.”

Mr Pickles first proposed introducing a grace period for motorists in May, when he said that parking charges had become “ridiculously high” and that drivers are being used as “cash cows” by local authorities.

The grace period could be introduced either by amending existing legislation or introducing new guidance for local authorities.

Several local authorities already allow motorists to park free for up to 30 minutes near local shops, and the Conservatives want to implement similar schemes more widely.

However, Mr Pickles and fellow Conservative ministers are opposed to the Liberal Democrat plans to lift cap on maximum parking fines for all offences. “There are already far too many ways that the state can fine you.

“Lifting the cap on parking fines across the board would make parking fines bigger than the penalties given to shoplifters. It would be criminalising people who just want to go shopping.”

Rory Sutherland: Don’t abolish The Knowledge

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Now that most taxi drivers use satnavs, should ‘the Knowledge’ be abolished? Shouldn’t we ditch the requirement that all London black cab drivers spend several years acquiring an insanely detailed knowledge of London before obtaining a badge?

In cabbie folklore, the model for the Knowledge was first suggested by Prince Albert. True or not, there is something German about the notion that every tradesman should have a qualification. And the test is teutonically stringent: more than 70 per cent of applicants fail or drop out. It demands that the prospective driver memorise 25,000 streets and 20,000 landmarks within six miles of -Charing Cross.

Now, useful as it once was, many people feel the Knowledge has been made superfluous by the arrival of cheap satellite navigation devices. I thought this. Conventional economic thinking, obsessed with ‘market efficiency’, would argue that the Knowledge is a ‘barrier to entry’ erected to maintain the scarcity of cab drivers, rather like a medieval guild. But as some people have begun to realise, markets need trust before they can be efficient. Medieval guilds existed for this reason. Trust is always more difficult in cities because of the anonymity they afford. Guilds offset this problem. If it is costly and time–consuming to join a guild, the only people who enter a trade are those with a serious commitment to a craft. And guilds are self-policing; the up-front cost of being admitted adds to the fear of being ejected. Could you really trust cabbies as you do now if they had gained their licences through attending three or four evening classes and shelling out for a second-hand TomTom?

Reciprocation, reputation and pre-commitment are the three big mechanisms which add to trust. You can use a small local firm which needs your loyalty. You can use someone larger with a brand reputation. Or you can trust someone who has made a big investment in getting a badge, and stands to lose everything if caught -cheating.

If you don’t believe this, go to Athens. Foreign passengers are on average taken on a route 10 per cent longer than Athenian passengers. Try Seville, where I was menaced to pay an imaginary €20 ‘suplemento aeropuerto’. Or Rome, where a colleague of mine was mugged by his taxi driver (he had admittedly made the mistake of being German, a nationality widely known for carrying egregiously large amounts of cash; one reason I suspect Germans are averse to bailing out southern Europe is that most of them have already been robbed there).

The Knowledge may have a value which outweighs its ‘inefficiencies’. One of the mistakes made by conservatism over the past 30 years is that it has become too much in thrall to rabid free-market economists, with their naive model of ‘an efficient market in equilibrium’. A proper conservative should ask, before excising some supposed inefficiency (the Knowledge, the monarchy or the human appendix) whether its removal may damage some valuable mechanism not easily understood by first-order thinking. Asking an economist to explain the workings of human society is like trying to understand human sexuality by consulting an expert on hydraulics.

A new and interesting breed of economics has arisen which draws inspiration from evolutionary thinking rather than from simple maths. Two good places to start in understanding this field would be Matt Ridley (The Origins of Virtue) or Paul Seabright (The Company of Strangers).

A fairly simple definition of conservatism would be as follows. If it comes to a showdown between reason and instinct, you bet on instinct. And if it comes to a showdown between maths and biology, you bet on biology.

Rory Sutherland is vice-chairman of Ogilvy Group UK.

This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated 20 July 2013

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Unlicensed minicab driver convicted of plying for hire

An unlicensed minicab driver was yesterday convicted for plying for hire. Omar Gouaalla appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday 17 July 2013 and pleaded guilty to plying for hire as well as accepting a booking without holding a private hire operator licence.

Gouaalla was fined £200 for each offence, plus a victim surcharge. He was also ordered to pay £100 towards TfL’s costs.

Gouaalla, was caught plying for hire by Transport for London’s (TfL) Taxi & Private Compliance team on 19 October last year at the junction of Wardour Street and Whitcomb Street. A TfL Compliance Officer saw Gouaalla assisting passengers into a licensed private hire vehicle. When Gouaalla was questioned by the Compliance Officer he admitted that he was unlicensed, the journey was not pre-booked and that he knew he should not have agreed to take the people.

Helen Chapman, TfL’s General Manager of Taxi & Private Hire, said: “We welcome the court’s decision which should act as a clear reminder that breaking the law will not be tolerated and can result in a criminal conviction. This driver was wilfully putting the safety of the public at risk by pretending to be a legitimate driver fully aware that he had not gone through the thorough criminal and medical checks that we insist on before we licence a driver. As well as that he was uninsured and stealing work from legitimate taxi and private hire drivers.

“This conviction has come about thanks to the important work carried out by our Compliance Officers, who are out every night of the week to enhance the safety of the travelling public in London.

“This is a timely reminder to the public that only licensed taxis (black cabs) can be hailed on street or outside a venue and any minicab journeys should be pre-booked through a licensed private hire operator, details of which can be found through our free Cabwise app.”

£125m in parking fines! That’s what drivers in central London have paid out in just one year!!

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The top revenue earners among the boroughs were all in central London, with Westminster topping the unofficial table by making £37.1 million.

The figures, compiled by London Councils, were presented to the transport select committee which is holding an investigation into whether council parking revenues — and particularly fines — are excessive.

It comes as the High Court is due to rule whether Barnet, under councillor Brian Coleman, acted illegally when it ordered a hike in charges to enhance its highways budget.

The five highest earners after Westminster are Kensington & Chelsea (£27.1 million), Camden (£24.2 million), Hammersmith & City (£19.5 million) and Wandsworth (£16.9 million). But in its submission to MPs, London Councils, which represents 33 boroughs, said the arrangements for parking and traffic enforcement are “broadly right”.

It attacked “dogged campaigners” for looking unsuccessfully for the “smoking gun” that showed councils were seeking to profit from motorists’ misfortune.

Out of 28 boroughs, two — Camden and Westminster — make a profit of more than £5 million while 13 make a loss against charges such as patrols and administration. The councils with the lowest revenue from parking (fines and charges) are all outlying: Croydon, Enfield and Barnet which each earn £1.4 million, Hillingdon (£900,000), Bexley (£800,000) and Havering (£700,00). Sutton loses £100,000 a year.

London Councils said: “Despite frequent allegations to the con

trary, local councils do not run parking regulations or parking enforcement with the objective of raising revenue.

“The allegation has been formally considered on a number of occasions, including previously by the transport select committee, which found no evidence to support the allegation. Several dogged campaigners have also spent considerable time and energy looking for the ‘smoking gun’ of evidence to justify this allegation without success.”

A London Councils spokesperson said: “Most of the money a borough collects in parking penalties, from pay and display ticket machines and residents’ permits goes straight back in to running the parking service. Any surplus must, by law, be spent on transport projects.”

Source: evening standard

Westminster outlines parking vision at select committee – fewer tickets, less CCTV, further innovation

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Westminster City Council has praised drivers in the city after 40,000 fewer tickets were given out by civil enforcement officers in the last financial year (which ended on Monday April 1, 2013).

The latest figures build on the fact that 50% fewer tickets were given to motorists last year than in 2003.

The council hopes the that the trend will continue a result of clearer road markings, an advice-led approach from new traffic marshals and Parking Bay Sensor technology used for the first time in the UK – but more importantly because of greater responsibility taken by road users.

Westminster also announced today that it is removing over 50 CCTV traffic enforcement cameras in a bid to bring a more common sense approach to parking in the city.

After appearing at the transport select committee into local government parking enforcement on Monday (July 8), Cllr Daniel Astaire, Westminster City Council cabinet member for business, said: “Just like encouraging people to recycle in the right bins, we want road users to follow suit and take responsibility for parking in the right places.

“Our goal is to get people to park legally and ensure clearer, less congested roads. We have already been told by big businesses in the West End that congestion is the biggest threat to the city’s economic future.

“These figures are encouraging but we want to increase the level of people following the rules, so we do not have resort to giving out tickets. We will play our part by expanding our innovative parking bay sensors and traffic marshals pilots which are already making a positive difference. And we will continue trying to improve the simple things like making signs and road markings clearer.”