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£43 million: as Shakira might say, the chits don't lie

PUBLISHED: 12:35 25 April 2007 | UPDATED: 14:31 07 September 2010

THE council is dead - long live the council! That might well be the cry as far as parking enforcement is concerned. The previous Labour-led regime stood accused of bleeding motorists dry by fining them at every opportunity, often in inappropriate circumst

THE council is dead - long live the council! That might well be the cry as far as parking enforcement is concerned. The previous Labour-led regime stood accused of bleeding motorists dry by fining them at every opportunity, often in inappropriate circumstances. It added insult to injury by turning Camden's roads into perilous obstacle courses, installing road humps wherever they could find the slightest excuse.

No wonder there are so many 4x4s in the area - Camden's roads were beginning to resemble those you might encounter should you ever be tempted to take a weekend activity break in an SUV camp.

Residents took their revenge at the May elections last year, consigning Labour's regime to oblivion. Enter a new administration, with promises of a fair regime, a pledge to end clamping, a moratorium on humps (not that there was much space left to accommodate more) and classes aimed at teaching wardens to be a bit more pleasant.

Now all of this is beginning to look like window dressing. As Shakira might say, the chits don't lie. The council's revenue from parking is expected to net an extra £3.8 million, topping the £40 million mark for the first time and keeping the borough among London's top earners when it comes to extracting the last possible ounce of income from the great motoring public.

Clamping has largely disappeared, but seems to have been replaced by a higher incidence of towing than was previously the case. Wardens may be a little more polite, but are still fairly inflexible and equally voracious.

If the council really wanted to legitimise its parking controls - before it is ordered to by the government as a consequence of a national review - it would engage in a radical root-and-branch reform, not just tinker at the edges. It might start by asking if it is fair to demand that people who are already paying council tax should also pay for a permit to park outside their own homes.

It could also look at the scale of penalties: for instance, getting your car out of the pound could cost you the guts of £200: is it really fair to penalise a motorist so excessively for what may initially be a minor and probably accidental infringement of parking law? These days a common thief caught in the act of larceny might expect to be dealt with more leniently by the courts.

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