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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 August 2007, 18:10 GMT 19:10 UK
Curb-clamp council claims success
By Carla Pickering
BBC News, Camden, north London

As the government proposes to drastically cut down on wheel-clamping by councils, people in one London suburb where action has already been taken, give their views on how it is working.

"The government are catching up with Camden," says councillor Mike Greene.

London plumber Marc Williams, 23
Clamping is a pain in the neck
Marc Williams

Since September 2006 Camden council has been targeting only the worst offenders, rather than people who overstay their time slot in pay-and-display bays.

Mr Greene, who is the executive member for the environment, said the move had brought about a shift in public attitude towards the council.

"Discontent doesn't disappear overnight, but people are aware that we are trying to make parking penalties more fair and proportionate," said Mr Greene.

He said the fact that more people were paying their parking fines in time was a sign that residents were making an effort to "work with the council, not against us".

John Barnes, 81, from Camden
I've seen people banging their hooters in protest
John Barnes
John Barnes, 81, who has lived in Camden all of his life, also recognised such a change of attitude.

He said: "There used to be so much anger towards the council over clamping. I've seen two or three people sitting in their cars and banging their hooters in protest as they are being towed away on a lorry. People feel less angry now.

"It will mean people won't suffer that dreadful fear, when they come back from the shops, having left their car for five or 10 minutes, to find it's not there, and to have it dawn on them that it's been towed away."

The new guidelines would "make life far, far easier" and spare "all the aggro", he said.

The goodwill of the residents however has come at a cost - an annual "seven-figure sum", no longer collected by the council.

Mr Greene said the council had looked at the financial implication "very carefully" and had made compensatory savings.

He added that the revenue from residents' early payment of parking tickets had helped offset the loss.

Taxi driver Ahmed Ashkir, 26, from Camden
Ahmed Ashkir wants traffic wardens to be more "professional"
Plumber Marc Williams, who often has to pay to park his work van in London, believes that ticketing rather than clamping is a "more fitting" punishment.

The 23-year-old said: "Clamping is a pain in the neck. It's more expensive than a ticket for a start and then you have to wait for someone to come and unclamp you."

Taxi driver Ahmed Ashkir, 26, welcomed the enforcement of the "motorist-friendly" clamping regulations in Camden but was concerned that some drivers would exploit the situation.

He said: "I think the council should still clamp cars that are parked on double yellow lines, on zigzags, in the middle of the road or somewhere where they are causing an obstruction."

Vehicles still clamped by the council include drivers with three or more repeatedly unpaid and unchallenged parking tickets, people who use disabled badges fraudulently and people who park on housing estates without a valid permit, taking up residents spaces.

University student Mary Olulode, 23, from Camden
I think a fine is enough of a deterrent
Mary Olulode
However, Mary Olulode, who used to live in an area with residents' parking bays, believed that a fine was a sufficient punishment for a commuter, for example, taking a resident's space.

The university student said: "It will put someone out who has paid for their parking space, but I still think a fine is enough of a deterrent."

The 23-year-old felt that the amount of money spent on the congestion charge, road tax, car insurance and petrol was sufficient.

After living in Camden for 23 years, Paola Antoniazzi moved to Italy 20 years ago. She believes that a recent rise in wheel-clamping in the province of Parma, where she lives, has had a positive effect and wants the clampers in England to stay.

The 43-year-old added: "If people used public transport, it might be possible to make the centre of London a pedestrian-only zone, like Milan and Rome."
Ex patriot, Paola Antoniazzi, 43, who moved from Camden to Italy, with her daughters Vanessa, 10, and Clarissa, 3
Paola Antoniazzi says public transport is the answer

But what has become of the much-criticised council clamping team in Camden?

They are being employed to create parking spaces in the borough.

The wardens now drive around residential areas, looking for suspended spaces which are no longer needed by utility companies carrying out work, and put them back into commission.

"Instead of being condemned they are now being cheered," said councillor Greene.




SEE ALSO
A wheel clamper, and proud
05 May 04 |  Magazine
Qualification in wheel clamping
30 Nov 04 |  Education

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