Christmas volunteer gets fine overturned

CAMDEN Council has been forced into a U-turn over its refusal to waive parking fines for two Christmas Day volunteers.

Lottie Moggach and Elizabeth Bell got tickets through the post after being caught on CCTV dropping off pensioners for Christmas lunch at Hampstead Community Centre.

Initial appeals to the council’s better nature fell on deaf ears, but after heartless parking bosses were exposed in last week’s Ham&High, the council has cancelled one of the tickets.

Ms Bell said: “I received a cheque on Saturday, with no explanation, other than that this was ‘purely a discretionary gesture’.

“I have a feeling everyone would like me to shut up and go away. But I am still not happy about the arrangements for the community centre.

“I want to know what the council is going to do if I am dropping off passengers disabled by age or infirmity at the community centre in future. There can’t be this nonsense every year. It’s a waste of everybody’s time and energy.”

Ms Moggach is still waiting to hear confirmation that her ticket has been overturned. Responding to Ms Moggach’s appeal last month, parking official Catherine Wood wrote: “You have stated that you were dropping off elderly people to the Hampstead Community Centre for Christmas lunch. Whilst I appreciate that you were acting as a volunteer for the centre, vehicles are not permitted to pick up or drop off passengers on zigzags.”

This week a council spokesman said: “We have cancelled the parking ticket because of the charitable purpose of her visit to Hampstead on Christmas day.”

Parking tsar Councillor John Thane was unapologetic about the ticket last week and this week refused to comment on the climbdown. But his reaction has attracted outrage from residents.

Ed Wolf from Rudall Crescent wrote to the Ham&High: “John Thane should immediately be sent on two courses – one on common sense and the other one on public relations. Regrettably it may be too late for him to profit from the former course.”

Alex Henney from Swains Lane, who is the secretary of London Motorists’ Action Group which campaigns against parking controls, wrote: “The episode you reported on last week’s front page is contemptible, even by Camden’s standards. It is just another illustration of our psychotic and dysfunctional council’s unpleasant tax farming operation.”

Volunteers have had problems dropping people off at the centre ever since the camera was installed in April to ‘stop crime’. Taxi drivers refuse to stop outside with elderly and infirm pensioners because they get tickets, even if they use the HGV loading bay.

Centre co-ordinator Richard Weaver said: “The council has done the right thing in overturning the ticket as they were not even parking dangerously. Last year the council wanted to turn those ‘dangerous’ zigzags into a loading bay, so how is it dangerous?

“It’s ridiculous. You would have to give over 60s a lift in an HGV to avoid getting a ticket. We do need an undertaking as these tickets are a threat to our Christmas Day.”

Meanwhile this week around Hampstead one (possibly desperate) driver has been leaving Valentine messages for parking attendants saying: “Warden Valentine! Leave my car alone today please! I still love you.”

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