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It was in September, 1960 - 50 years ago this year - that parking enforcement as we know it today began, when the first traffic wardens marched onto British streets. In fact there were 40 of them and they inspired fear and fascination in equal measure as, in distinctive military-style uniforms with rows of gilt buttons, yellow shoulder flashes and yellow cap bands and with the power to issue £2 fines, they went in search of law-breaking motorists on behalf of the Metropolitan Police. The very first ticket was issued to Dr Thomas Creighton who was answering an emergency call to help a heart attack victim at a West End hotel. The medic's Ford Popular, left outside as he tended the victim, was ticketed but - just as happens today when mean or thoughtless wardens ticket hearses, ambulances (or even rabbits in their hutches...) - there was such a public outcry that he was subsequently let off. Some things never change. Today, in the Borough of Westminster, where it all started, 200 parking attendants - or Civil Enforcement Officers (CEOs), as they are now known - patrol the streets.
And while their appearance has changed - witness the blue jacket, polo shirt, jumper, black trousers and baseball cap - and they work for the council instead of the police, their intent has not. Last year Westminster issued 500,272 parking tickets, generating £69,301,000 and a surplus of £30,170,000. But it's just one of 34 authorities issuing parking fines in London, which issued 4,151,901 tickets worth an estimated £337,911,693*. A further 245 councils issuing tickets in England and Wales, by means of an army of about 18,000 parking attendants, issued 4,035,555 parking tickets in 2009, raising an estimated £267,761,347 in the process. Nationwide, Telegraph Motoring figures* suggest, drivers cough up £605,673,040 for parking misdemeanours. But it would come as no surprise to Dr Creighton to hear that CEOs still occasionally get it wrong. A total of 53,806 motorists appealed against tickets at the London Parking and Traffic Appeals Service last year and 63 per cent were overturned. Nationally, 12,423 appealed in 2008, with about 62 per cent winning the day. All of which is grist to the mill for the UK's leading parking expert, Barrie Segal, a chartered accountant-turned campaigner who set up appealnow.com to fight on behalf of the beleaguered motorist. Barrie, author of a top-selling book on parking and how to fight unfair tickets, regularly takes up the cudgels at appeal hearings, where he has an astonishing 87 per cent success rate. He's seen it all; a hearse slapped with a £120 fine while loading a coffin at a funeral, a parking attendant who, when he saw people queuing to donate to the National Blood Service, crept around to the front of the mobile unit in Sutton to "give" in his own unique way, sticking a ticket on the windscreen. Not to mention retired Yorkshire Dales blacksmith Robert McFarland, who found a ticket on his horse. Under "vehicle description", the attendant had written "brown horse". "You can always rely on the parking attendant - to get it wrong," says Barrie. "Many do a good job but the big problem, since parking enforcement was handed from police to the councils in the 1990s, is a five-letter word beginning in 'M' and ending in 'Y'. Enforcement has changed out of all recognition since those innocent days of the 1960s." Unfortunately for parking attendants today, motorists' exasperation sometimes tips over into violence. Verbal and physical attacks on wardens have fallen from a high of 21 a month in 2007 to about five a month today in Westminster but the borough, in line with other UK councils, still sends CEOs on "conflict resolution classes" which include police guidance on calming angry motorists. Charelle Lander, a Westminster parking attendant for almost three years, says she has been verbally and physically abused while doing her job. "Some motorists can be very rude and at times aggressive," she said. "As soon as you put on the uniform people stop seeing you as a human being and instead as an easy target for abuse." Abuse is never excusable. But attendants sometimes don't help themselves. Take the case of driver Nicky Clegg from Pershore, who was driving when a tree toppled and crushed her car. She escaped unhurt and police dragged her car to the roadside - where it was promptly ticketed by an over-enthusiastic warden. And the case of the ticketed rabbit? Manchester pet shop owner Cliff Chamberlain was staggered when a warden "slammed" a ticket on the rabbit's hutch in his shop, after he moved his delivery van before she could ticket it. "She tried to give it to a boy who works for me. He refused as he doesn't drive. The warden then slammed it on the hutch. It's ridiculous. It hasn't even got wheels." So Barrie... why exactly did you call your book The Parking Ticket Awards, Crazy Councils, Meter Madness and Traffic Warden Hell?
- Estimates Barrie Segal
THEN AND NOW How enforcement has changed in Westminster, where it all started: 1960 Ticket: £2 Parking warden's duties: preventing cars from being parked except at a parking meter, advising motorists where to park. Warden's average age: 50 Hour's parking in Mayfair: 6d (2 1/2 p) Met police revenue: about £48,000 Tickets issued per day: 344 2010 Ticket: £80-£120 Parking warden's duties: enforcing parking regulations, acting as "civic ambassadors" by giving directions and other useful information to the public. CEO's average age: 39 Hour's parking in Mayfair: £4.40 Westminster Council revenue 2009/10: £69,301,000 Tickets issued per day: 1,300 What to do if you've been issued a parking ticket incorrectly: - Tell the traffic warden why the ticket is wrong, ask him to record your comments in his notebook. - Examine the ticket, ensure all details correct. There must be a date of issue and date of contravention. - Check vehicle registration number, colour of car and place of alleged contravention are correct. - Gather information on parking signs, yellow lines etc. Are they visible and clear? At night, were the street lights on? Take photographs as evidence. - If you want to appeal, do so immediately - don't wait for the penalty charge to become payable in full. - The first step in the appeal process is to write to the council to challenge the ticket. Do not pay ticket prior to this: you cannot appeal tickets once you have paid. If the council rejects this informal challenge it will send a "notice to owner" form. Return it within 28 days to the council. If it rejects your case again you will receive a "notice of rejection of representations" and with it a notice of appeal, allowing you to appeal to independent adjudicator. - Outside London, appeal to the National Parking Adjudication Service (). In London, use the Parking and Traffic Appeals Service.