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Greenwich parking problems: Report for cllrs state 32 wardens – FoI reveal actual numbers are less

Beside new Woolwich homes

Parking problems are a perennial issue over the past decade across Greenwich borough as each year expected income totals failed to meet budgeted amounts.

At least a £12 million shortfall has been recorded with many years seeing an income gap between £1 million and £2 million. Just today the council themselves have tweeted stating refuse collectors cannot reach homes due to poor parking.

The failure to enforce is a long standing issue that not only hampers pedestrians and other road users but costs big. The shortfall below budgeted totals each year results in over £12 million not spent on improving public space, streets, and transport in the borough.

Last month the latest report on council finances showed another £1 million miss for the department. The report also contained apparently inaccurate information on how many traffic wardens – or civil enforcement officers – they have to monitor parking.

Council report this winter states 32 staff

While the report before Greenwich Council’s cabinet stated 32 staff, according to a Freedom of Information response they actually employed 28.

Number on right is staff total

Now, it could be that four staff quit in the very short time before a report was drawn up and presented to councillors – and they couldn’t hire more staff despite programs such as GLLaB, but reports featuring details of the relevant department have been poor for many years. Reports sought to explain how the department continually failed in raising budgeted income, and almost every year it was the same copy and paste as little changed:

Latest parking miss

Go back four years and it’s the same thing with the favourite line being: “The agreed parking strategy is being used as the basis for a number of initiatives” appearing almost every year, for many years.

2015/16

The strategy appeared to do nothing but would be trotted out to councillors – and the next year rolls around with the same thing appearing and another shortfall.

Data from Greenwich Council obtained via Freedom of Information request. No increase in staff for seven years

The department had fewer staff in 2016/17 than 2010/11 to enforce parking despite numerous new build developments constructed over that period and an increase in controlled parking zones. Flagship “car-free” schemes saw – and continue to see – extensive parking on cycle lanes and pavements.

After years of this a decision was finally made to hire more staff which reduced the budget miss by 50 per cent.

And while they finally agreed increased levels of staffing, we can now already see that increase to 32 staff falling back – though they decline to mention it in the report. While it may be unreasonable to expect staff to be hired during spring last year during lockdown – they had months over the summer and autumn.

The authority struggled with 32 staff members to monitor areas, let alone a now-reduced total. A continual stream of new housing developments completing stretches numbers ever further. In addition, Controlled Parking Zones approved years ago are still not in place and the council now talk of more. What staff will enforce?

The authority does now has CCTV enforcement live for traffic offences 16 years after the powers became available and 29 out of 32 London councils had adopted measures. What happens with that revenue remains to be seen. It is ringfenced for streets and transport and could be used for more parking staff, improved streets or ever more street clutter, continuing many years of blowing money on street furniture as enforcement fails. Place your bets. If councillors swallowed reports uncritically and large budget misses each year, will they be on the ball with this income?

For now at least poor parking remains widespread, staff numbers are lacking and councillors appear not to be receiving the full picture.

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12 Comments

  1. Colin Robinson

    Let’s remind Greenwich Council that this May we have local and London elections and If they like the public office that they hold getting there act together on this and other local issues would be a good idea.

    • Michael

      We have only the London Mayor and London Assembly Elections this year, which was postponed from last year.

      The next Local Elections are in 2022, so, unfortunately for us, those in office at Greenwich Council have over a year left…

  2. Let me get this right. Is that 32 figure the number of enforcement officers across the whole of the Borough?

    @Colin Robinson: the voters don’t want change but in any event, the alternative is the Tories.

  3. BrutusTheBaaBaa

    Outsource parking enforcement to a third party. Greenwich council will generate guaranteed fixed income from the tender price plus a share of ticket revenue. At the same time they can reduce headcount and make cost savings. Improved service whilst simultaneously reducing costs to the taxpayer. Win-win. Shame our council is slow to move on this.

    • Comment by post author

      fromthemurkydepths

      They outsourced parking on estates and a private company named Wings retains all income.

      Last year they outsourced enforcement of littering etc in town centres and the private company gets about 90 per cent of income.

      Rather than outsource again reform the dept so all income is retained to improve the borough. This requires elected officials to act of course…

      • BrutusTheBaaBaa

        Nothing wrong with the contractor keeping 100% of revenue, as long as the amount paid by the contractor to RBG to win the contract is at least equal to the opportunity cost of keeping the services in house over the same period of time. Whilst RBG may be good at some things, running “for profit” services is certainly not one of them.

    • Have a potter around the Wing controlled areas and tell us when you’ve changed your mind. Generally it’s a case of ‘pavements are the new parking spaces’. And also I think Wing receive the full amount of the tickets (not that I’ve ever seen one) so you would have thought there was some incentive there.

      Why do people see outsourcing as some sort of panacea? 22 billion quid on Test and Trace is the latest in a long line of disasters which have the fat cats laughing all the way to bank and the public picking up the inevitable tab in both hard cash and social costs.

  4. DWW

    I have seen a traffic warden walking round the Plumstead Common/Waverley Crescent area where there is no need for one and yet areas like Lakedale Road and Plumstead High street that often see double parking on double yellow lines would earn them a fortune if they transfer a couple of wardens there! Oooh! I can’t wait for council and Mayor elections this year, Perhaps a complete change of councillers might be preferable to the status quo and the useless Mr Khan should definitelly go?

  5. Jo

    They often wander round the same spots while ignoring areas with serious issues with a number of vehicles blocking highways and pedestrians on a very regular basis with very little action taken. The department is rotten. The situation around Plumstead station is a very good case in point. I’m sure we’ve all seen staff ignore certain cars/areas.

    Let us be honest and see that the same party will always win in most places so it takes members within the party to get rid of the past it couldn’t give a toss councillors who do very little for their areas. Put elected councillors who car in the party and positions of power and tell departments to shape up or kick out the hopeless staff “managing” this mess. It’s not a Labour/Tory thing anyway as some labour councils are very good at keeping roads and pavements clear of selfish drivers and I’m sure they are in-house staff too. It takes people at the top to care is all.

  6. C Leadbeater

    Herbert Road is an example of parking on double yellows and on the footpath.

    A warden on this stretch of road would more than pay their costs.

  7. Derek Small

    Totally agree that outsourcing to private companies is not the answer, it rarely is successful, and in any case this is a potential profit making area for council tax payers to benefit from. But the parking enforcement obviously needs a shake up from the top and holding somebody accountable as to why it is so poorly run and unprofitable. Is there a ‘head of parking enforcement’ on a high salary who should be reporting regularly on his progress to councillors? Do councillors get to see reports like yours and FOI reports Murky? If they do and still do nothing to act then they are responsible and must be held accountable. We are paying their salaries for that! Like many, I am unaware of the structures within council, but if this was an efficient corporate structure, heads would roll.

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