Council keen to end the nightmare of illegal parking - and paying for a PCSO could be a solution

East Cambs Council leader Anna Bailey (centre) wants chief constable Nick Dean (left) to engage in talks about parking...

East Cambs Council leader Anna Bailey (centre) wants chief constable Nick Dean (left) to engage in talks about parking enforcement. Lib Dem opposition councillor Charlotte Cane (right) and her group had reservations but agree action is needed. Picture; ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

A world in which a PCSO (Police Community Support Officer) is paid for by East Cambridgeshire District Council with his or her only remit to enforce parking could become a reality if the chief constable agrees.

The council agreed on a motion calling for talks to open with the chief constable.

Council leader Anna Bailey proposed the motion that she says would keep car parks free of charge but at the same time tackle “growing instances of anti-social on-street parking across the district”.

Rejecting the idea now being considered elsewhere – including at Fenland District Council – of civil parking enforcement she said this was long winded and expensive to implement with huge capital costs involved.

“The council cannot sign up to the civil parking enforcement scheme, which is irreversible, has significant unfunded capital and revenue commitments and would lead to the introduction of car parking charges in our district,” she said.

“By working with the police, we hope to find a solution which is suitable for both organisations, but most importantly, keeps off-street town centre car parks free and really starts tackling the cases of dangerous on-street parking that taking place in the district.”

She told councillors that keeping parking free remained “at the top of agenda- we will not charge for parking, full stop”.

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But finding ways to deal with inconsiderate and dangerous parking was a priority.

Cllr Bailey said civil parking enforcement was something “I cannot and will not agree. It is tantamount to writing a blank cheque on behalf of every single taxpayer in the district.

“It doesn’t work. There is absolutely no going back- it is not a reversible process.”

But the council remained concerned at the growing instances of dangerous and anti-social on street car parking across the district, not limited to, but notably in Ely, Littleport, Bottisham and Soham.

Two options will now be considered, either police enforcement through providing extra cash or a community safety accreditation scheme.

The latter scheme could involve council employees collecting evidence – including photographs – of illegal parking. This could then be passed to police who would issue an enforcement notice.

Cllr Mark Inskip agreed action was needed but felt the council ought not to be constrained by narrowing the options to be considered.

Cllr Bill Hunt felt that having a PCSO paid for and under the direction of the council was an option.

He was also happy to consider a trained employee of the district council being able to “effectively report selfish parkers” with a camera, and log the time, date, and place to file a report to police.

Cllr Simon Harries wanted all options explored and felt narrowing it down at this stage was wrong.

Cllr Lorna Dupre also queried whether the chief constable – faced with budget cuts – would consider having a PCSO paid for by the council.

Cllr Charlotte Cane described the motion as “seriously flawed” since it proposed a specific solution that is “quite probably not workable and potentially rules out a solution that is workable”.

But Cllr Josh Schumann warned that civil enforcement was “a blunt instrument to fix a problem”.

He said it often works in urban areas with high density but he felt in rural areas and particularly in villages it would not serve the purpose of what the council wanted to do.

Cllr Bailey summed up by stating the “reality” of civil enforcement and the “massive up front capital costs”.

It was not a path she was prepared to take.

The council agreed with her motion and a report will come back to the finance and assets committee with the outcome of those exploratory talks with Cambridgeshire police.

The motion “instructs the director, operations to engage with the Chief Constable to discuss the provision of a dedicated car parking enforcement resource for the district and/or the effective implementation of CSAS (Community Safety Accreditation Scheme).

“We furthermore request that an update is reported to finance and assets committee in January 2021 detailing any legal and financial implications for consideration and decision on how to progress the matter”.