Traffic wardens on the agenda for Midlothian councillors again

Parking in bus stops on Dalkeith High Steet
Parking in bus stops on Dalkeith High Steet

Midlothian’s councillors were last week given an update on plans to introduce private traffic wardens to the county.

The council is currently preparing an application to the Scottish Government for decriminalised parking powers within Midlothian, based on a partnership agreement with City of Edinburgh Council to deliver the service.

In August 2015 councillors agreed that this would offer the most effective parking enforcement regime in the long term, after years of one traffic warden patrolling the county’s streets alone.

The latest report into decriminalised parking for Midlothian, put before councillors last week, estimated that the scheme could cost up to £200,000 a year, for parking wardens, transport, office staff, back office functions, handheld ticket machines and legal costs.

Speaking at the full council meeting, transport convener Councillor Derek Rosie (SNP), revealed his belief that introducing private traffic wardens is the best way forward for the local authority.

He said: “We are seeing increased headlines throughout Midlothian of bad and inconsiderate parking in the town centres and around schools.

“I think this shows that doing nothing is not really an option.

“There is no guarantee the single traffic warden we have will continue. And to be honest, I don’t think it’s working as well as I would have hoped.

“It should be noted that the £200,000 annual cost is the top figure and that for parking enforcement there will be options put forward for members to consider, which will include methods of parking enforcement and the costs aligned to each one.

“Therefore I move that we agree the recommendations in the report.”

Midlothian Council leader Catherine Johnstone (SNP), added: “I agree with Derek because good parking behaviour is not always evident in Midlothian in our towns and our villages.

“Traffic congestion and bad parking can cost lives. So I agree that we should go ahead with these recommendations.”

It is estimated that one-off remedial works to rectify signs and road markings before decriminalised parking is introduced will cost £100,000.

While councillors agreed to the costs noted and continued support for the plan to introduce private traffic wardens in Midlothian, an amendment put forward by Labour councillor Russel Imrie was also accepted.

Speaking at the meeting, Cllr Imrie said: “I want to move as an addendum that we write to COSLA to get figures throughout Scotland about how much it is costing councils that are going down this particular route.

“I’m not against what we are doing. I just want to highlight the cost impact for a small authority like Midlothian Council. I accept that some of the costs are one-off and I accept that the £200,000 in the report is an estimate.

“Nevertheless, £450,000 is going to be expended from Midlothian, out of a budget that’s pretty tight in the first place. When we are looking for savings here, there and everywhere, that’s an extra cost to the authority.

“With the best will in the world, if we had a £30 ticket when the system comes in, to cover the £200,000 you are talking circa 7,000 tickets a year to cover the costs.

“I defy anybody to think that we are going to get that many tickets issued.

“So in a sense we are going to have to pay for it anyway.

“Lets not pretend about this. We now have a situation where we are going to privatise a service that has always been in the public sector for as long as I can remember.

“I just feel that if it is costing £450,000 for Midlothian Council, then I would like to get the figures back from all the other authorities.

“We are taking action. All I’m saying is that it’s a heck of a cost for the actions that we are having to take.

“So all I’m looking for is that we write to COSLA to get that information.”

Following discussions with Police Scotland, the existing single traffic warden in Midlothian will be maintained until March 31, 2017 while the application to Holyrood is processed.