Beware the £100,000 creatures of the night

By Keith Newbery

Friday, March 7, 2014



Beware fellow Islanders, creatures of the night are moving among us and they show no mercy. They lurk in the shadows, licking their lips and sharpening their predatory instincts while going about their nefarious business.

I’m talking, of course, about civil enforcement officers (traffic wardens to you and me) who are the foot soldiers in the IW Council’s war against motorists.

In the past financial year, the council obtained £752,649 in parking fines (details courtesy of a Freedom of Information request) and the salaries of those responsible for this revenue amounted to £652,889.

So that’s a nice little earner for the council of about £100,000 in 2012-13, give or take a few on-costs.

Apparently, the wardens work (or lurk) 37 hours a week "on a rolling rota basis and can be deployed at any time when parking restrictions are in force".

We certainly know they enjoy a particularly profitable early-evening shift, which is why I came to mention in this column a few weeks ago that one of my mates received a ticket for parking in a Shanklin loading bay at 7.20pm on a winter’s evening, despite displaying his disabled badge.

This Palmerston Road pitch is obviously a lucrative one for the local wardens, because I then heard from other motorists who fell into a similar trap.

One reader (who preferred to remain anonymous) told me he parked there to help his disabled wife and their friend, who was in the final stages of cancer, attend a function at Shanklin Conservative Club.

He returned to find the dreaded ticket but was so incensed he fought it every step of the way and the council backed down when the matter was on the brink of going to court.

John Watson wrote: "My wife and I decided to treat ourselves to a carvery lunch at the Wheatsheaf on a Sunday and we parked in Pyle Street, outside the hotel.

"I did notice a marked loading bay but as it was a Sunday afternoon, wet and out of season, with no likelihood of any deliveries, I thought nothing more of it, displayed the blue badge and parked.

"We got a parking ticket, which we queried by post without success.

"I am now convinced the council parking services have nothing to do with traffic management. They are purely revenue driven. They act not so much as a service but as predators."

Grumpy Greening’s disposition was not improved by his little local difficulty with the parking vultures.

He told me: "I live in a 30-yard long cul de sac next to a school. Three years ago, I came home to find my grandson had parked on my driveway.

'I pulled my car up on the pavement and went indoors to hurry his departure. Ten minutes later I came out to find a parking ticket had been placed under my windscreen wiper. This was at 9.40 in the evening."

He added darkly: "Are the wardens on bonuses or some sort of incentive? They must be, to act in such a way."

Apparently not Brian, according to another reply I received from an FoI request.

I know some people will be reading this and saying: "Serve them right. They broke the law so they should stop whingeing and pay up."

But the fact remains parking restrictions in certain places are illogical, unnecessary and therefore unfair (certainly when they are applied 24 hours a day).

The time has come for an official overhaul before the patience of Island motorists begins to exhaust itself.

The police isn’t coming but it’s a good career choice

Now we come to the subject of collective nouns. No, don’t look away. It will only take a few moments, I promise.

I had a moan a couple of weeks ago about the sign at Coppin’s Bridge roundabout, which stated: "Drive carefully. Your family are waiting for you."

I reckoned it should have read "your family IS waiting for you," and some hair-splitting is about to ensue.

Steve Parkes, of Totland, wrote to point out, quite correctly, that some collective nouns can be treated as singular or plural, depending upon whether they stand for themselves or their constituent parts.

I regard the family as a self-contained unit, which is why I prefer "is" to "are".

John Wortham also wrote to ask whether I would ever say: "I dialled 999 and the police is coming?"

The answer is no, because that is an example of a collective noun being used to refer to few officers and not the entire institution.

But I would, for example, say: "The police is an excellent career choice."

Finally, Wendy Ford also appeared in the letters’ page to say she was confused about when to use "my husband and I" and "my husband and me".

Here are a couple of examples. "My husband and I love ice-cream" and "The dog chased my husband and me."

When to use which? Just remove the words "my husband and" from such sentences and the answer becomes clear.

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