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Who would be a Southend traffic warden?
SOME drivers believe traffic wardens are killjoys who set out to fine as many motorists as possible. And it is true they have a job to do.
That job often involves incurring the wrath of motorists who really don’t want to pay out a fine, even though they may have parked in the wrong place or overstayed without paying.
So who would want to be a traffic warden? It’s surely a thankless task where confrontation is constantly on the horizon.
I spent a morning in the company of a traffic warden or civil enforcement officer as they are officially known, It proved to me a real eye-opener.
I expected them to be tough and uncompromsing. I was mistaken.
Senior civil enforcement officer Barny Gazey, 40, was my guide for the morning, taking me around Southend town centre on part of the beat he patrols for seven-and-a-half hours a day.
Within minutes we came across a lorry parked on a double-yellow line in Ashburnham Road. And we could see another parked blocking the entire road a little further down.
Two tickets to be banded out straight away, I assumed.
But a polite but firm word from Barny, who asked asked the drivers how long they were going to be there, and they were soon on their way.
A little further down the road, a car was parked in a residents’ only bay with a visitors permit dated from the day before.
“We’ve got a waiting time, this one is five minutes,” Barny explained. ”If there’s an alternative for me to not issue a ticket then I won’t issue one. If the driver comes back within five minutes of waiting I’m happy to cancel it, but if they came back after the time is up the only people that have the power to cancel it are Southend Council.”
And he does speak to a resident in the street to ask them if they know who the owner is, to no avail.
However, the owner of the car – a tradesman doing some work in a nearby house – came out moments after his time was up. He was upset, but polite and accepting of the ticket.
In just over an hour, Barny issued two tickets but gave advice to many more people. The number of men and women who approached us to pleasantly ask where to park, for help with machines and if other people were breaking the law was a surprise.
“We’re here to help the traffic flow,” Barny explained. “If people don’t park in any contraventions then they won’t get a ticket and in most places if they move on within the right time they won’t get one either.”
Indeed, our mere presence was enough for many people to stop parking badly – which is the whole point after all. In London Road we spotted a Jaguar parked in a loading bay. After looking at the vehicle to check it didn’t have any exemption badges and wasn’t broken down, Barny began to make his notes in preparation for issuing a ticket.
“I can’t issue this one because the signage is incorrect. There used to be a sign here but it’s gone,” he said.
But moments later, the offending motorist came out of a building he’d been in and ran into the Jaguar, getting it away as quickly as he could.
ATTACKS and abuse is a huge risk for traffic wardens. In the past two years, there have been 40 assaults on staff as they carry out their jobs.
But they resolutely carry out their duties.
Barny Gazey said: “I’ve been in the job for three and a half years but it has definitely got worse recently in terms of being attacked.
“I don’t know if it’s the economic climate, people might be more worried about their money and the like.
“If you let everybody park where they wanted to park no one would get anywhere and we’re here to make sure the traffic is moving. If not we wouldn’t be doing our job.”
As for the persistent beliefs that they have targets for the number of tickets issued and try to catch as many people as possible? All myths, they say.
“If we had to have targets you would just see a sea of yellow everywhere,” Barny said. “People try to justify their own mistakes, we can only ever issue a ticket if someone is in contravention.
“Everybody has got a camera phone these days it’s not worth acting incorrectly because someone will be filming it.
“A good day for me is if all my interactions with members of the public have been good ones. It’s not about how many tickets I’ve issued.”
Apcoa, formerly Central Parking System, hasbeen upholding Southend Council’s parking restrictions for 13 years.
In the last two years they have issued 87,687 tickets. In the same period there have been 40 assaults on their officers.
Dale Barraclough, deputy contract manager, said: “The biggest concern we have is the amount of abuse our colleagues have to put up with.
“In terms of tickets, that’s not really something we ask them about when they come in from a day’s work.
“We measure that they are safe and measure 100 per cent that they can get round their area to ensure local shops and residents can see our officers on patrol.
“We patrol city areas, town centre areas, areas where we’re asked to respond to concerns from residents and businesses who’ve spoken to Southend Council.”
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