Today the County Council took a decision that effects how parking offences will be enforced in Kettering.
Currently Kettering is the only area in Northamptonshire where the responsibility of enforcement lies with the police. Everywhere else legislation has been brought in to ‘decriminalise’ it so other bodies can be given the job of issuing tickets etc.
Because the police are themselves overstretched and have better things to do it makes sense to take these powers from them and have parking wardens patrolling the streets, both in residents-only parking areas and other streets that have double-yellow lines and other parking regulations.
Under the present system, Kettering Borough Council employ their own wardens to patrol the residents-only schemes and by all accounts they do an excellent job. They work on weekends and late at night and because they are also Environmental Officers, also deal with things like reporting fly tipping and enforcing dog fouling rules. For this reason, the Borough Council obviously wanted to keep control of this and there was cross-party support for that to happen.
The truth is that this is a good example of a council service being provided cheaper and to a higher standard than by a private provider and it would therefore be in the public’s interest for this to continue. To that end, KBC offered to also take over the double-yellow line enforcement if the government approves decriminalisation, or at least continue their successful residents parking areas with other roads being done by the private parking firm the County Council use.
I was disappointed, therefore, to see that in the report presented to the County Council’s ruling cabinet today there was no mention of KBC’s position, nor the fact that they wrote a letter to the County Council only last week saying they were opposed to NCC’s plans to take over parking in Kettering and the Borough. Consequently I managed to get copies of this letter and placed one before each cabinet member before the start of their meeting.
I then asked for permission to address the meeting and suggested that they should go ahead and ask the government to decriminalise Kettering, but to carry on negotiating with KBC so that a better solution for residents may be found. I had hoped the Conservative leader of the Borough Council (who is also a County Councillor) might also have been there to publicly challenge what the County were proposing, given that the policy of his Council is to do whatever is necessary to keep residential parking. Alas, he wasn’t present and so on behalf of Cllr. Eileen Hales and myself as the only two Kettering Labour County Councillors, my voice was the only one opposing the plans and unfortunately the cabinet decided not to listen to me, and voted to take over not only the double-yellow line enforcement, but also the resident’s parking schemes as well.
This, despite the fact the Borough Council have a track record of doing a good job, and that residents will have to pay more under the County Council.
Given that Kettering has had a different system in place than the rest of the county for years, there is no reason why they couldn’t have continued to operate the new scheme locally in the same way that many district and borough councils up and down the country already do. Instead residents will now arguably get a worse service at a higher cost.
Well done NCC!