MP Lucy Frazer wants to know when Cambridgeshire police will begin recruiting volunteer traffic wardens to tackle illegal on-street parking across Ely and Soham.
The SE Cambs MP says she is yet to see even a business case for ‘road safety police volunteers’ that was touted by East Cambridgeshire District Council as the best way forward to deal with parking issues.
Ms Frazer has reminded Supt James Sutherland of Cambridgeshire Police of his pledge to bring forward a business case and has written to him asking “for further update on your progress”.
East Cambridgeshire is one of the last remaining districts in the country not to have adopted or have agreed to Civil Parking Enforcement (CPE) which removes parking from being a police issue.
CPE means that on street parking offences – instead of being enforced by the police- are dealt with by the county council who then, mostly, pass it onto districts to administer.
South Cambridgeshire, Fenland and Huntingdonshire are going through the legislative processes, but Conservative controlled East Cambridgeshire District Council has refused.
Council leader Anna Bailey wants volunteers – with police support – to undertake the work, and her East Cambs Conservative group describes it as “a massive sledgehammer to crack a small nut, albeit a very annoying nut”.
Her group believes CPE “is incredibly bureaucratic (aka expensive) and it is no coincidence that councils that have taken on this enforcement role find themselves having to charge for car parking in their off street car parks in order to pay for it.
“Councils cannot increase Council Tax to pay for running CPE; CPE also comes with huge upfront costs – Fenland District Council are estimating around £400k”.
Keeping parking free remains a priority for the Conservative group (coincidentally Fenland insists parking there will remain free even when CPE comes in) and after a few false starts they produced the prospect of volunteers to issue fines.
Now Ms Frazer wants to know what is happening.
“During my visits to Soham and Ely High Street in recent months, shop owners raised a recurring issue with me: illegal on-street parking,” she says.
“Illegal on-street parking prevents the fair allocation of spaces to residents, businesses, and visitors, and can also create dangerous situations.
“It can make it difficult for both pedestrians and motorists to spot hazards and it can block access for emergency services.
“That’s why I am fully behind the proposal by Leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council, Anna Bailey – to give voluntary teams legal powers of parking enforcement – and have asked Cambridgeshire Constabulary for an update on their plans to adopt it.”
Her subsequent letter to Supt Sutherland admits “police resources are fine and there are other issues which require police attention”.
But Ms Frazer believes the Police and Crime Act of 2017 is emphatic in allowing for police to bestow legal powers on civilians “working in a voluntary capacity” to deal with parking.
And she wants Supt Sutherland to tell her “when we can expect recruitment to begin so I can share with this constituents who may be interested in volunteering”.
East Cambs Conservatives says that once CPE is in place, it is irreversible – “the council takes on the job of on street car parking enforcement forever”.
Conservatives say they are committed to free parking and fear this could be threatened if CPE is introduced.
“Bringing in CPE to deal with the relatively small numbers of people that park illegally is incompatible with free parking in our car parks,” they state.
East Cambs Council says that as well as capturing evidence of speeding and car parking abuse that will lead to fines, the role will also include an education remit – talking to motorists at the school gates for example.
They have promised that road safety police volunteers, unlike community Speedwatch volunteers, will have the necessary latest generation equipment that will lead to fines for speeding.
(You can watch Supt Sutherland address the full council meeting at East Cambs in October 2022 via this link here https://youtu.be/ckROctZlum0?t=1340 which outlines the proposal for the new role”).
Earlier this year, Supt Sutherland went out onto the streets of Ely to see for himself the problem of illegal parking – and booked a couple of motorists whilst he was there.
A police spokesperson described Supt Sutherland’s foray into the parking issue as “it is not every day that the East Cambs Neighbourhood Policing Team (NPT) gets some help with issuing parking tickets.
“It wasn’t long before he was reaching for his ticket book!
“Superintendent Sutherland came across vehicles parked on double yellow lines on Forehill and in a disabled bay with no blue badge displayed on Newnham Street.”
The spokesperson added: “This is just a reminder to those of you who take the risk, you may return to your vehicle to discover that you have been issued a fixed penalty notice (FPN).
“There are plenty of free car parks in Ely, please use them.”
Lib Dem Cllr Mark Inskip said: “Whilst appreciating the efforts of Superintendent Sutherland, it’s an expensive way of enforcing illegal parking. Almost every other council in the country employs civil parking enforcement officers.
“The average salary of a police superintendent is three to four times that of a civil parking enforcement officer.
“If we had civil parking enforcement in East Cambs we could have regular enforcement on Forehill and free up senior police officers for critical policing duties.”
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