Updated 7.30pm see below
Just before Christmas, Barnet Council decided to offer residents the opportunity to park for up to two hours for free on Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd December. This was supposedly to help boost high street trade. I know this because I check the Council's website daily, something which I suspect very few residents do.
I visited North Finchley on the 22nd to take advantage of the free parking and was surprised to find the car park barely half full. I also found that there were no signs about the free parking period in the car park in Castle Road and several people trying to pay by phone. I tried to tell some of them that parking was free for two hours. A few thanked me and went on their way but a couple said "there aren't any signs telling us its free so we are going to pay anyway because we don't want to risk getting a ticket."
When I returned to my car the same thing happened. People too worried about getting a ticket to take the risk especially as there were no signs telling them it was free.
I decided to submit an FOI request on the subject and today I received the response.
The questions and responses are below:
Q1. The number of car parks that had signs
informing the public that parking was free for two hours.
R1. None. Information was published on the Council’s
website and local press. There were also posters in local shops
Q2. Copies of any correspondence between Barnet Council and the pay by phone
operator instructing them that car parking was free for two hours.
R2. We have not been able to locate any correspondences
relating to this matter.
Q3. The number of payments by telephone that were taken on 22nd December 2012
for periods of two hours or less and the total value of those payments.
R3. The total number of
transactions for 2 hours parking or less is 1043 for Off-street locations.
On-street transactions were 4186. The approximate value of the
transactions will be £9000.
So there was no correspondence telling the pay by phone provider that there was free parking for two hours, money was taken even though the Council had waived the charges and there were no signs in any of the car parks telling people the parking was free. Given that Civil Enforcement Officers (traffic wardens) visit each of the car parks several times a day they would have been able to affix simple stickers letting residents know it was free parking. It would have cost peanuts. The Council could have instructed the pay by phone company not to take payments on 22nd and 23rd but chose not to.
It's bad enough that the free parking was only for the Saturday and Sunday before Christmas but by failing to effectively communicate that policy they have failed to meet the objective of offering free parking namely to stimulate trade. Cllr Dean Cohen should hang his head in shame.
The Barnet Times ran this story this afternoon and have now updated it with the revelation from Cllr Cohen that everyone who paid on the day has now been refunded. He said,
"We did put up posters but perhaps some more signs should have been put
up too". Dead right! Yet again a weak idea badly executed. The big issue is that Councillors simply don't listen and then they try and sort out the ensuing mess. Perhaps it would be better if they got it right first time.