Aberystwyth loses its traffic wardens

Ceredigion, and Aberystwyth in particular, has come in for an unaccustomed spot of UK-wide publicity recently (here and on tonight's One Show) with the story about the breakdown of street parking control (covered regularly on this blog). This is my take on it:

Councils across the country are taking over control of street parking from the police. It’s called Civil Parking Enforcement. All of Ceredigion’s immediate council neighbours have either already done this or have announced firm plans to do so.

Money that police traffic wardens claim in parking fines goes straight to the UK Treasury. It’s not even retained by the local police force. The great advantage of Civil Parking Enforcement is that, unlike the police, Councils can use the money from parking fines to reinvest in local traffic management according to local needs. It’s a complete no-brainer.

Ceredigion Council have, uniquely, over a period of many years, and for reasons of what I’d describe as stubborn conservatism (others have described it as burying their heads in the sand), simply refused to take up these powers.

The police, under increasing financial pressures, and having given up on the nice approach, finally lost patience with Ceredigion Council and announced it was withdrawing its traffic warden service.

Shocked out of their complacency, and never actually believing that the police would take such drastic action, despite all the warnings, the Council then belatedly agreed to take on the responsibility for street parking that they’ve tried for years to avoid. The problem is, the whole scheme takes a year to put together.

I must admit I thought that, once the police had a firm date from the Council for taking on their enforcement role, they might delay their withdrawal. Apparently not. The police have stuck to their decision and made their traffic wardens redundant on May 31st, although have said they will still prosecute people causing an actual obstruction.

Some people have initially welcomed the loss of wardens. My feeling is that they’ll change their minds as the realities unfold. Already the disabled are finding people parking in their bays. Shops are starting to worry that cars parking all day in the two-hour parking bays meant for shoppers will start to affect trade. One or two narrow streets have already come close to being blocked to large vehicles by cars parked on both sides. In the remaining ten months or so before the Council gets its act together, the streets of Aberystwyth look like being an interesting experiment in anarchism.