Monday 18 December 2017

Traders seek legal advice in council parking row

System designed to fool customers into paying more fines, locals claim

JIM CUSACK

Hard-pressed traders in Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin, are to seek legal advice about the local council's decision to seek tenders from car parking operators which include a quota system of parking fines to help produce €6m in revenue in the coming year.



The local business association says the town's commercial centre is being crippled by the imposition of a parking regime, which it says is a purely revenue-raising operation by the local council. The council supplies its staff with 225 free parking spaces.

Under the tender, the council has set a quota for any successful company of the imposition of at least 90 fines a day to make up the €6m in revenue which councillors backed at their monthly meeting last December. The tender was drawn up and issued in the past week.

Ann Joyce, of the Dun Laoghaire Business Association, said yesterday that a comment by a council official on RTE last Thursday that they had cut parking offences by 23 per cent was "offensive" to traders.

"That's about exactly the drop in our business in the past couple of years," she said.

"They (the council) receive around €13.4m annually in rates from businesses in the town. They have a duty of care to their customers, who are us, the traders, and the public.

"The inclusion of this quota of fines in the tender is a clear indication that this is purely an exercise to raise revenue without any regard to the people who work and live in the borough.

"It is grossly unfair and we are seeking legal advice as to its legality. We have a fund and we will be consulting our barrister."

Ms Joyce said that the parking system in the town has been designed to "fool" the public.

"People are caught out parking their cars innocently in spaces marked as loading bays where the lettering has worn out and which are right beside parking machines. The loading bay beside the closed Dunne's Stores shop (on Northumberland Avenue) is being used to catch out about 10 people a day. It is deeply unfair.

"The councillors voted for this at their meeting in December. They are acquiescing in it."

Details of the tender issued last week revealed that Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown County Council will impose financial penalties if the fines "objective" is not met. The tender notice says "failure to achieve 32,400 valid parking tickets per annum" will result in a financial default.

A spokesman said this meant there was no financial incentive for the contractor to exceed the target. The successful contractor will face a financial penalty of €1,200 for every 100 tickets by which it fails to reach the 32,400 annual target.

The current operator is APCOA, part of a European conglomerate which has its headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. It operates similar parking regimes throughout the country.

In its tender for the new contract, the council says the successful tenderer should ensure that its "staff members engaged in parking enforcement should be highly mobile so that they can move from location to location without the delay associated with walking".

A council spokesman said last week: "The issuing of parking fines is an essential element of the pay-parking system and traffic management in the Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown area, as the county has a relatively benign enforcement procedure, with a 15-minute 'grace period' and no clamping or removal of vehicles."

Sunday Independent

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