We are halfway through a weekend when the “Business As Usual” signs have gone up all over riot-ravaged central Croydon.
Businesses, TfL and the council are all rallying round after 8/8, with free Tram travel and special offers from a number of local businesses in the centre of town, including the Green Dragon pub (15 per cent off food and drink), Pizza Express at South End (40 per cent off all main courses), and free face painting for the kids at the Croydon Visitor Centre.
There is also free car parking in council-owned surface car parks and on-street. But you will struggle to find any signs to publicise this on site.
Our roving reporter visited Wandle Road car park on Saturday afternoon, and was dismayed to find no signs advertising the free parking offer, and several confused motorists who wanted to take advantage of the offer but were afraid of the dire consequences of a £110 fine – which is still boldly threatened on the regular car park signage.
Parking, of course, is the province of Phil “Two Permits” Thomas, who clearly sees the council-run car parks as a major cash cow. And while the council’s parking department is notoriously litigious against illegal parkers, it also has a reputation for being badly administered. As this weekend’s shambolic free parking offer demonstrates.
Our reporter parked in Wandle Road car park and witnessed everyone else there paying fees – there was no sign at all that parking charges were being waived.
The parking permit machines were still in operation, keeping Thomas’s coffers ticking over within sight of the devastation of Reeves Corner and while goodwill and the Blitz spirit was being demonstrated everywhere else.
And if you arrived at Wandle Road by car and wanted to query whether the parking charges were in operation, you could not. Both telephone helpline numbers displayed on council signs in the car park did not work – the “pay by phone” number goes through to the regular automated system, while the emergency number displayed just went through to council switchboard.
Our reporter phoned Parking Services on 0208 760 1966 and got through to the parking team who confirmed all parking was free in council-owned car parks in central Croydon, and on-road in South End (where the looted Richer Sounds has been re-furnished, re-stocked and back in business all week). But the council had either failed to, or didn’t want to, get that message out more widely.
Residents by Reeves Corner didn’t know about the free parking offer, the staff at Bon Marche (where there’s 20 per cent off all purchases over £20 this weekend; so they ought to know about the scheme) couldn’t advise on the parking arrangements, and they were also none the wiser when we spoke to Hewitts’ staff or those by The Gun. The council had not got its message across, either, to people in London Road, by West Croydon station.
It is worth noting that the council’s press and publicity department has an annual budget of £660,000. Do Croydon residents get value for that money?
So while the Whitgift, Allders and Centrale multi-storey car parks are honouring their £2 flat fee parking offer this weekend, Croydon council has talked the talk on its parking offer, but actually done little or nothing on the ground to implement it.
We tried calling Parking Services again this morning, and the very jolly council officer we spoke to assured us that, provided our car was properly parked within a bay, there is no charge.
We asked what happens if we get a £110 fine like the sign threatens? “Sue the council,” they laughed. Don’t tempt us, we thought.
We asked why there was inadequate signage. “It’s a last-minute thing,” they told us. “It hasn’t been months in the planning. Maybe they didn’t have time to do any signs.”
Which falls firmly under the “cock-up” rather than “conspiracy” theory which underpins so much of Croydon council activity, although it fails to explain why no one had the wit to run off a dozen photocopied sheets and have them taped to the council car parks’ meters and their existing signs just for the weekend.
- Rioters “wanted to kill a police officer” claims Commander (insidecroydon.com)
- Croydon was vulnerable after being short-changed for decades (insidecroydon.com)
- Hilley’s hubby has council pay for conference “volunteers” (insidecroydon.com)
- “Two Permits” forced into U-turn (again) over parking charges (insidecroydon.wordpress.com)