‘Give us a break’ plea to town traffic wardens

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CALLS have been made for more leeway from parking enforcement officers.

Morpeth traders say more tolerance is needed from the traffic wardens following numerous complaints from businesses and the public.

Chairman of the Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade John Beynon said that in one instance volunteers were ordered to move their vans as they were putting out bloom baskets in the town.

“The chamber is delighted to see traffic wardens in the town because there was a lot of abuse of parking in Bridge Street and Newgate Street and businesses couldn’t get in to load and unload, but it is just a case of having a little bit of tolerance,” he said.

“We have a lot of examples where the traffic wardens are being very strict and there is no leeway.

“In the summer when we were putting out hanging baskets at 8.30 on a Sunday morning we were told to move our vehicles ten yards down the road otherwise we would get a ticket.”

Businessman Andrew Watt, who runs Carlo’s fish and chip shop in Newmarket, added: “The attitude of the traffic wardens stinks. I think they could do with a bit of a talking to.”

Fellow chamber member Les Sage said a singer who was hired to entertain shoppers in the Market Place was told to move their car immediately, yet a wedding car parked in a restricted bay across the road at the council-run Town Hall was allowed to stay for 35 minutes.

However, he said when his car was damaged by a loose grid in Oldgate a different parking officer rushed over to help, took photographs and offered to report it.

He said more wardens should act as ‘ambassadors’ for the area.

“Because we don’t have a lot of police on the ground now we want the approach to wardens to be different. Strangers should be able to pull over and say to the warden ‘excuse me, could you tell me where such and such is and advise where I can park?’ They need to be ambassadors,” he said.

Complaints were also made about a particular vehicle in Newgate Street regularly parking all day without enforcement, as well as a vehicle that parks on the pavement outside the council’s One Stop Shop in Bridge Street.

The issues were raised at a chamber meeting last month when Northumberland County Council parking officials attended.

Parking Manager Lynne Ryan said she would raise the concerns with enforcement officers and described the incident over the hanging basket vehicles as “unfortunate”. However, she said that to ensure consistency officers do not have discretion in applying the regulations.

She said: “We appreciate things like that will be better if a bit of common sense is used, but the officers have a very difficult job to do in terms of consistency and how we apply things and the officers do not have discretion.

“They do have clear policies to work towards that ensures we have consistency and fairness in what we do.”

She added: “In terms of attitude I’m very keen to hear about the officers’ behaviour. It is important that we do get that feedback.

“We have had a lot of abusive situations, very difficult situations and physical assault on officers and as a result of that we are trialling body cameras for officers. It is for their health and safety, but it also means we are aware of officers’ behaviour.”

Ms Ryan denied that parking officers have targets for fines, but she said that the service must be self-sustaining.

“No enforcement authority is allowed to have targets. In terms of managing finance we have to ensure that we are self-sufficient as a team. If the enforcement work is not at a level that requires 26 officers we will reduce those resources. When we put the service together we were very mindful of that so the officers are on two-year fixed contracts and we were very clear that we will be reviewing the levels after two years.”

Council Executive Member for Corporate Resources Andrew Tebbutt said: “When you introduce a new policy you do get lots of people who don’t appreciate it or try to dodge it. I fully support what the officers are doing for consistency. If you don’t have consistency you always disadvantage somebody.”