Flipping the bird

In yesterday’s post here, I urged readers to consider the national act of remembrance, to think a little about the horrors and privations others went through in order that we may live in relative comfort and prosperity today. The bright poppy wreaths newly laid on village war memorials as I cycled past yesterday afternoon were a  melancholy, but beautiful sight, and I returned home that evening warmed by the thought that we still engage in this solemn ritual in a sincere and respectful manner. That warm glow of communal endeavour was shattered today, however, when I picked up on a story emanating from Walsall Council. From this report in the Express & Star, it seems that while many in Walsall were engaged in their contemplative respect, the town traffic wardens were up with the birds, ticketing for Britain. I wonder if they stopped for the silence, terminal in hand, head bowed in bureaucratic deference?

the-cenotaph-walsall-173611
Get a move on lads, the wardens will be back off their break in 2 minutes...

Since the last such event in the town, Walsall’s perpetually cash-strapped council have decided that it should no longer be free to park in the town car parks on Sunday, and anyone who doesn’t pay and display is fined the princely sum of £25. Many people, who ordinarily would only visit Walsall on a Sunday for this event, were caught out by the rule change, and not realising that they now had to pay to park, ended up summarily ticketed. Understandably, this has angered many people, and I fully sympathise with them. On the very day that citizens of the borough – many of them elderly – come into town to pay their respects, to dwell on the past and reflect on the nature of comradeship and loss, it seems particularly niggardly to rip them off in order to fill civic coffers. Only in Walsall could we do this in such a parsimonious, patronising and pompous fashion; we’re expected to be pleased that we can park for free in order to worship the god of retail therapy in the run up to Christmas, but our burghers cannot engage in a little compassionate rulebook relaxation for those saluting an altogether more noble tradition.

Council leader Mike Bird, apparently continuing his one man mission to prove that power and position don’t necessarily equate to compassion, humility or respect, added insult to injury by issuing a jobsworthian statement of mind-boggling indifference. In it, he stated blandly that the wardens were ‘legally bound’ to issue tickets and that…

‘…the authority would not be able to wipe all fines clear. Each ticket was issued within the law. A warden has no indication whether a car belongs to a war veteran. There is an appeals process and each case would be considered on its merits.’

So that’s sorted, then. They were only obeying orders, a notion whose irony cannot be lost on some of the older veterans of a very particular conflict. Intriguingly, there was apparently free parking provided for the event somewhere, but the authority neglected to publicise it. Why would they – after all, it may have affected the council’s income. What this rueful, shame-faced act of miserliness goes to show is that Walsall Council still don’t get what’s happening to the town, and why. Few of those people punitively taxed for their error will return to Walsall if they can avoid it, nor have a good word to say for the town. Just as visitors come here get delayed and confounded by the dysfunctional ring road, irritated and inconvenienced by the overly complex parking provision, then proceed to walk through a town blighted by rubbish, vandalism, litter and atrocious town planning wouldn’t dream of returning. Why on earth would one pay to shop in Walsall with all its cost and hassle when it is easier, cheaper and more convenient at some godforsaken out of town complex?

Oddly, the wardens so keen on Remembrance Sunday morning never seem to be present when they’re really needed. The atrocious and downright dangerous parking situation outside many of our primary schools seems to continue unabated, whilst situations like the one below, in Walsall Wood,  repeat daily without hint of any punitive action. Still, there’s less chance of being assaulted by some frail pensioner than there is by a bone-idle overprotective mother or some pumped fitness buff…

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8:13pm, 18th August 2009: not a traffic warden in sight...

Edited Tuesday 10th November 2009: Walsall Council issues an apologetic statement…

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5 Comments

  • Andrew

    Mr Bird was on radio WM yesterday. The free parking was advertised but occupied by Sea Scouts practising so cars were not allowed into the advertised car park. It makes Dads Army look like panorama!

     
    Reply
  • Nice post Bob. It’s the attitude these days: hit the soft target.

    Pick on people parking in a car park, caught out by a rule change, ignore the parking that is actually dangerous and illegal, rather than unpaid

    Catch people on main roads with speed cameras, do nothing about the idiots speeding down narrow residential streets.

    Personally, I’m not going to be caught out with the parking regulations as Walsall is such an awful place to drive to, I won’t do it…

     
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  • Walsall Guy

    Well said Bob, good post as is usual from you, thanks.

    We need to put this in the context that Walsall Council could not organise itself to get out of a wet paper bag, that parking is ‘policed’ by a private company under a contract with the Council (& the details of that contract are apparently being kept a secret by the Council) and lastly that Mike Bird continually shows poor leadership, his strength seems to be in consistently blaming others for his poor performance. So this is the image that the whole Council takes as the ‘authorised’ one and so follows and acts like it too.

    A strong leader would ensure that compassion is seen to be applied here and so cancel these parking tickets in all the genuine cases. JUST DO IT MR BIRD and prove us wrong!

    It is unlikely that Walsall will ever noticeably improve with Mr Bird as leader. He is the man that in the time of overspend and blocks on even purchasing new street litter bins has spent approx. £60000 of Council money on an audio/visual system in the council chamber that is still not being used fully and is therefore not providing VFM.

     
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  • Steve Wilcox

    Well said, Bob – Walsall Council and Mr. Bird should hang their heads in shame . . . .

     
    Reply
  1. Turn, turn, turn… « BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog  November 10, 2010

    […] Sunday (whilst dignitaries were to be provided with free parking), seemingly blind to the brouhaha of the year before, our benevolent burghers have relented and opted for a genuine freeforall instead. Remarkable. Beth […]

     

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