Friday, 17 June 2011

Is this your vehicle?

Hartlepool, in common with many towns around the UK, charges for car parking in the town centre. The residential streets around the town centre are now all "Residents Parking Only" to prevent people using these residential streets to avoid the town centre charges. This of course generates a mass of paperwork to issue these parking permits, which of course only last for 12 months, after which they have to be re-issued. A nice job for someone in the Civic Centre.

So my parking permit expired at the end of May. I telephoned the civic centre "Contact Centre" and after listening to the on-hold music, being told all of their operators were busy, followed by more music and a warning that calls would be recorded for quality and training purposes, I finally got to speak to someone. A protracted discussion took place after which he decided that I had to present myself, in person, with proof of eligibility (gas bill, electricity bill, etc) and I could then be issued with a new permit for the cost of £10.

Arriving at the Hartlepool Civic Centre I was greeted by two very nice ladies at the reception desk, who after they had completed their very important conversation, directed me towards a machine which gave out numbered tickets so that people were seen strictly in order or arrival. There was a choice of buttons at this machine. I pressed to one for Car Parking and received ticket number 834.

The next number called was 82! Through the glass security screens I could see groups of people standing around chatting to each other. How refreshing that Hartlepool Council Staff don't bother with conference rooms with tea and biscuits when they need to exchange information. They hold their meetings standing up in the middle of the office! I was in for a long wait I thought. Number 83 didn't show up and number 84 was called. However I then discovered that each of the three buttons gave out tickets in a different number sequence. Number 843 was the next number served after number 84? Work that out? Why have three separate ticketing systems running? Someone is obviously in love with making things complicated! Possibly that was why the staff had to go into little huddles in the middle of the office, they needed to co-ordinate three separate cuing systems.

After only 30 minutes my number came up! I presented the old permit and asked for a replacement. Did I have proof of entitlement? The electricity bill was presented and accepted. What was the registration number of the vehicle for which the permit was required. I told him. Did I have proof of ownership of the vehicle? That one floored me! Why would I be asking for a permit for some else's car? Sorry he said, I need to see the log book to prove you own the car. Brilliant I thought, another trip to the civic centre and another half a day out of my life that I'd never get back.

However, there was a way out. I was entitled to a permit, as proved by my electricity bill, but as I didn't have the paperwork to prove I actually owned a car I would have to have an open permit valid for ANY Vehicle! I paid my £10 and it was duly issued. Why would anyone want a permit limited to one vehicle when they can present less paperwork and get one they can use for any car, van, truck, motorbike or side-car. The bureaucratic mind never fails to amaze me!

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