Thursday, March 05, 2009
It has to be said that I wander into ASDA on Whinbush Way without paying much attention to the signage that the company has put up around the car park. Had I done so, I would have seen that ASDA now threaten anyone who parks illegitimately in bays reserved for disabled people or those with children, with a £60 fine.
I'm often inclined to write these messages from supermarkets off as simply paying lip service to good manners - but no, I've learned that a local resident without a blue badge who parked in a disabled bay recently did indeed get his car clamped. Money had to be handed over to get the vehicle released.
Clamping is a very emotive issue. When I was doing my stint as Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, I wouldn't entertain their use in public car parks or in resident parking bays - clamping has an appalling reputation owing to the behaviour, I have to say, of some councils and private operators down south. It's an exercise that tends to wind drivers up, when there are plenty of statutory powers open to the local council to fine drivers who don't pay for tickets, for example.
Supermarkets, which don't have the legal framework available to local authorities, are an entirely different matter. I fully support what ASDA are doing, and hope that other supermarkets follow their lead. It makes my blood boil when I see fit and healthy people skipping lightly into a supermarket having parked in a bay for disabled drivers. I often find myself wanting to challenge them, but you never know how these confrontations are going to end.
I've contacted ASDA's PR people, who've told me that when the scheme was first trialled in Liverpool, the number of free spaces increased by 60% for disabled people and those with children. All money from the fines goes to the baby charity Tommy and Motability, the national disability charity.
When surveyed, apparently 4 out of 5 ASDA shoppers agreed with the policy. So do I, and it's only the minority lazy and thoughtless drivers who will object. We'll be mentioning ASDA's initiative in our next newsletter, so no-one can say that they've not been warned!