doc

CAMPAIGNERS are donning vigilante-style masks and taking to the streets of Southend warning motorists who are in danger of being nabbed by the council’s spy cars.

The group, known as No To Mob, are following the controversial CCTV cars around the borough on motorbikes, stopping to tell drivers parked illegally to move on – or get a fine.

The six masked men form part of a protest about the way the cars are being used and the rules under which they operate.

Their leader is trader Bob Wells, 52, who has led similar protests in Westminster and Bexley, Kent.

Mr Wells, owner of Printer and Cartridge Solutions in Woodgrange Drive, Southend, started his campaign following fears the spy car was driving vital custom away from his business.

He claims the car travels along the road past the stretch of shops at least once a day looking for illegal parkers. And therefore is not fulfilling its purpose.

Steve Baker, from Enfield, a member of the group, said: “We are not stopping the cars from doing their job. In fact, we are encouraging and helping them.

“If drivers are not parking illegally, then they won’t get caught.

“We are simply helping the spy car fulfil what the Secretary of State said in 2008, which was to get 100 per cent compliance, with no penalty charges.

“We also observed the cars to make sure they were not committing any offences themselves when they were out.”

Mr Wells launched his petition calling for a review on the controversial cars in April.

It has so far attracted more than 2,000 signatures from fed-up traders and residents.

He hopes No To Mob’s presence has caught the attention of council officials.

Mr Wells, of The Drive, Chalkwell, who has set up action group SOSSpyCar, said: “Traffic offences in the town need to be policed responsibly, and at the moment they are not.

“Many of the parking issues we have can be dealt with by traffic wardens.

“I support the car covering schools and clamping down on dangerous parking, but it seems by and large they are not doing this.”

Andrew Lewis, director for enterprise, tourism and the environment, at Southend Council said: “I am extremely concerned.

“The two civil enforcement officers found their presence extremely intimidating.

“Unfortunately, there was nothing we could do to prevent them from taking this action as they weren’t breaking the law.”