A plan to tackle illegal and irresponsible parking across Cherwell district by giving police up to £60,000 to enforce the law was approved last night (Monday, September 4).
A proposal to fund the equivalent of a police community support officer so they will stop motorists parking on double yellow lines was unanimously supported by Cherwell District Council’s executive and the opposition Labour group.
Council leader Barry Wood defended the scheme saying councillors choose to spend taxpayers’ money on things outside their remit because they believe it will improve residents’ quality of life.
Cllr Wood said: “I think it’s possible for people to say, ‘why are you spending district council money on something that the police should do?’
“The answer is for the same reason we spend district council money on cutting the grass which the county [council] should do.
“The reason we choose to do things is that we need to protect the quality of life of our residents and if that means spending a bit of district council money on a priority for our residents then that’s what we will do and we will stand by that level of committment and expenditure.
“It’s only for two and a bit years and my goodness me, it’s a lot cheaper than, as it turns out, introducing the decriminalised parking scheme across the district which we were planning to do, so you can argue this is a saving.”
Complaints about parking rules not being enforced across the district have been made for years but police say it is a low priority so many illegally or inconsiderately parked cars go unpunished.
In a bid to tackle the problem, the police and council have come up with a proposal to fund 37 hours a week for PCSOs to patrol mainly Banbury, Bicester and villages close to A roads.
It is estimated to cost £28,238 a year, with a committment to at least two years, which would be taken from the council’s reserves.
It was initially scheduled to begin from April, 2018, but councillors agreed to start the partnership with the police as soon as possible.
The alternative is for the council to take control of parking enforcement, i.e. decriminalised parking, but Cllr George Reynolds explained how a plan to do that five years ago fell through.
Council deputy leader with responsibility for off-street parking , Cllr Reynolds, said: “The district council is charged with ensuring the quality of life for people in Cherwell and this will have an immediate impact.
“And this won’t be one PCSO rushing between parking hotspots, this fund will be a boost in resources for neighbourhood police sergeants all over the district to tackle problems in their areas as they see fit.
“The alternative is a drawn-out, costly process of the district taking over enforcement from the police, which may only result in the improvement that this plan aims to achieve.”
Labour group leader Cllr Sean Woodcock said his party welcomed this proposal as poor parking is ‘the biggest issue’ for residents.
“This is a very good way to do something about it,” he said.
Cllr Woodcock said the majority of correspondence he receives it about parking problems and there is a lot of social media activity around the issue.
The roads around Banbury railway station, such as Alma Road and West Street, are a particular hotspot for irresponsible parking by commuters who do not want to pay £7-a-day in the new multi-storey car park
It is hoped after two years of enforcement by police, offenders will become wary of the risk of being fined and will stop parking irresponsibly.
Former county councillor Mike Beal has been campaigning for years to tackle the problem of having nobody enforce the parking rules.
Mr Beal, who stood down from the council before the election in May, believes paying the police is not the answer.
“Enforcement needs to be done by the council rather than giving cash to the police asking them to do parking enforcement,” he said.
“It’s not what the police are about any more and fair enough, I don’t them doing that when they should be solving crimes.
“It’s a matter of a sticking plaster or the proper job, and the proper job is for the district and county councils to talk to each other and take control.”
Thames Valley Police has been contacted for comment.
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