Like, I suppose, most people in London we live in a controlled parking area. To park on my road you must either have a resident’s parking permit or buy a ticket from the machine (£1.80 an hour, maximum stay four hours).
We don’t have a car, so most of the time this doesn’t bother us at all. The only time we even think about it is when we have visitors. For those occasions Wandsworth Council allow us to buy one-day visitors parking permits. You buy them from “parking shops” around the borough. Our closest one is near Tooting Bec.
Last weekend we had friends coming to stay and had run out of visitors permits, so I needed to go and buy some more. Before setting off I realised that as only residents are allowed to buy these permits I would probably have to prove where I lived. A quick rummage in my filing system and I wandered off bearing my passport, a letter from the council, a mortgage statement and something official from the Inland Revenue. All pretty impressive stuff I thought.
Not, however, impressive enough for the man at the parking shop. He has a list of approved items and no matter how important your pieces of paper are, if they aren’t on his list they don’t count. His list contains a driving licence, a current council tax bill, a home contents insurance certificate, a benefit book and a rent book. I tried hard to convince him that my paperwork was just as good as the stuff on his list but it was to no avail. He had his list and he was sticking to it. I went home empty handed.
I appreciate, of course, that Wandsworth Council need to be careful about who they sell these permits too. But I can’t help thinking that they’re going a bit too far here. Why is a rent book acceptable but a mortgage statement isn’t? What makes a benefit book more convincing than a letter from the Inland Revenue? Why won’t they accept letters from the council?
Why can’t they do checks themselves in the shop? Surely the people in the shop could be given access to a database of the names and addresses of everyone on the council tax list. Or maybe the council don’t trust their employees with that kind of data.
Or (and let’s get really radical here) maybe they could make it possible to order these permits over the web. Take names, addresses and credit card numbers on a web site. Check that the name matches the names on the electoral register at that address. And then send the permits out in the post. To an address that you know to be in the borough. I think that would be far easier for everyone.
We got our permits in the end. My wife went down a few days later with her driving licence.
Oh, and our friends arrived a little later than expected. They turned up in the evening. About an hour after the parking restrictions had been lifted.