For the last few weeks, I’ve been following a very public discussion between Haringey council and one or more members of the public.
The dispute concerns parking. Specifically, the council’s decision to move to a ‘cashless’ street parking system. As the council explains:
Our on-street Pay & Display (P&D) machines are up to 20 years old and some are in poor condition with high maintenance costs. They are also susceptible to cash box theft, vandalism and, on occasions, complete removal. This has been apparent of late as approximately 50 machines have already been taken out of service as a result of vandalism – or being at risk of vandalism.
Replacing a P&D machine costs up to £5,000 for supply and installation; so replacing damaged machines is costly. This doesn’t include the costs associated with future cash collections and ongoing maintenance.
On top of this, we have been advised that it would cost nearly £100,000 to convert all of our P&D machines to take the new £1 coin. It is increasingly difficult to justify such expenditure at a time when the Council is experiencing extreme financial pressures and so a decision has been made to move towards cashless parking and commence a programme to phase out P&D machines across the borough and only offer ‘Pay by Phone’ parking. We understand that a number of other London Boroughs are going through the same process.
The council fixed signs to the parking meters informing people about this development:
There has then followed a series of tit-for-tat alterations to the signs. A member of the public started sticking yellow notices to each sign stating that “Having a Mobile Phone IS NOT and SHOULD NOT be compulsory”, the council the responds explaining that there are other ways to pay.
Unfortunately, I only started following this discussion recently, and so haven’t got a photo of the yellow sticker on its own as such, but here’s an example where we are three layers in (sticker-council-sticker):
In their press release, the council show that they have made an effort to accommodate people without mobile phones:
We acknowledge that some users may not have access to a smart phone or they may simply prefer to use cash and so we will be introducing a cash payment option via PayPoint. This allows users to pay for their parking session in a PayPoint enabled local shop. A message then gets sent to civil enforcement officers (CEO’s) to note that payment has been made for a specific vehicle (the parking session automatically starts and the CEOs handheld will note payment as it would if you were to text or pay for the session using the app). This means that you don’t have to walk back to your vehicle to display a ticket. This PayPoint cash payment system is well established across London.
This point is also made in the signs the council have produced in response to the yellow stickers, however it is somewhat insensitively phrased:
“Text CASH and your location code to 60075 to find your nearest store. (Network charges may apply)”
Come on, guys.
I’m worried as to how this is going to escalate. On some signs, the stickers have simply been torn off, with no further response from the council:
This seems to have provoked Cool Hand Luke into going one stage further:
Imagine being so furious that you are unable to spell the word “mobile”.
Is this all the work of one person? It looks like the same sort of pen, and the handwriting is similar. The wording in that second matches that of the original yellow stickers. Perhaps this is just a one-man crusade. A lone wolf. Or perhaps these interventions are radicalising a whole new generation of militants. Only time will tell. The only comforting thought is that they’d probably find it difficult to organise any large-scale attacks as none of them have mobile phones.