Edinburgh’s notorious ‘blue meanie’ traffic wardens could be dishing out fines in Midlothian if council proposals are rubberstamped.
It is understood that “piggybacking” onto the City of Edinburgh Council’s contract with NSL, a private firm that has been providing parking wardens for the capital since 2006, is the preferred option among Midlothian councillors who believe it is “the most sensible and cost effective way forward.”
According to Dalkeith Councillor Margot Russell (Lab), who is backing plans to join the Edinburgh scheme, a feasibility study is to be carried out.
She said: “We have to do something drastic because parking has been such a huge issue, especially in Dalkeith, and if that means blue meanies then so be it. We have to take action that resolves the situation once and for all.”
Problems developed early last year when Police Scotland withdrew its wardens and Midlothian employed a single person to cover the entire county.
Town centres became a “free for all” with motorists parking at bus stops and on double yellow lines. The situation was summed up at a recent meeting of Midlothian Council by Dalkeith Councillor Alex Bennett (Lab).
He said: “People are parking wherever they like and no action is being taken against them. The problem is not the parking facilities in Dalkeith - it is that no traffic wardens are available. There is supposed to be one for the whole of Midlothian but I have never seen one.”
According to Penicuik Councillor Derek Rosie (SNP), the issue is also a problem in his ward: “In Penicuik people are parking on the High Street all day. If we were to blitz the town once a fortnight word would get round and people would stop doing it.
“The current situation is similar to Dalkeith, where cars are parking at bus stops with buses queued up at the back.”
Employing a private firm to enforce parking would require Decriminalised parking enforcement (DPE).
DPE grants contractors the powers to clamp vehicles, remove them from the street or issue a Penalty Charge Notice.
If Midlothian chooses to join the Edinburgh scheme it could take up to two years to push the DPE legislation through.
Councillor Russell Imrie (Lab), speaking at last week’s meeting, blamed the police for a lack of action: “Elected members are getting it in the neck all the time yet police in this area haven’t done anything about moving people on - there are drivers parking on double yellow lines, at bus stops and on corners. We all know it and see it in our daily lives.
“We don’t have the resources to go back to what we had and so are going to have to find a common way forward and it may be that the Edinburgh system is the right way.”
A council spokesman said: “Going forward the option for future enforcement is clear - decriminalised enforcement. The Edinburgh scheme allows for other authorities to join it and previous studies have confirmed that the most cost effective way to deliver decriminalised parking is in partnership with other authorities. Edinburgh’s scheme would be our best option.”