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Friday, 8 February 2013
Our Uncivil Service

Recently I applied to my local council for a renewal of my parking permit. The cost had risen by 333 per cent in 12 months. Needless to say there was no explanation of, much less apology for, this rather steep increase: but I suppose that no explanation or apology was deemed necessary. Someone, after all, has to pay for the unfunded pensions of retired council workers, an ever-larger reserve army (to use Marxist terminology).

The letter that accompanied the parking permit successfully conveyed the new relationship between the public and the public service, so called: that is to say on whose foot the boot now is.

 The permit must be displayed so that all the details can be seen clearly when inspected from the outside. Failure to do so could result in a Penalty Charge Notice being issued for non display.

No niceties such as ‘Please display the permit so that, etc., etc…, because you might be given a ticket if you do not.’ Why bother with verbal chivalry when you don’t have to, and when it might in any case mislead people about the real power relations between them and the council?

What does the council do in return for my money, other than refrain from issuing me with a parking ticket if I park my car in my street. Not a lot, really:

 The permit does not guarantee the holder a parking space nor does it render the Council subject to any liability in respect of loss or damage to any vehicle in a parking space or the contents or fitting of an such vehicle.

The council is not under any obligation to ensure that no one else parks in the street for much of the day, and in so far as it enforces parking regulation for strangers some of the time, it does so more to raise revenue for itself than to protect the interests of residents. If a resident finds that he has no parking space, he has to park elsewhere in the town on the same  expensive terms as a complete stranger.

Of course I recognise that there is a problem of large numbers of cars and that the council cannot assume responsibility for criminal acts; but it could, for example, say that it will do its best to protect property by providing a bobby on the beat. Gone, however, are the days of Your obedient servant: the town is the council’s and the fullness thereof. 

First published in Salisbury Review.

Posted on 02/08/2013 5:11 AM by Theodore Dalrymple
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