Parking fine hike is simply outrageous
It wouldn't have taken a clairvoyant to foresee the howls of protest that followed the plan to massively increase parking fines and also to introduce charges at what were previously free car parks in 16 towns across Northern Ireland. In the public mind this is simply a money-grabbing exercise, a fact underscored by Roads Minister Danny Kennedy's assertion that he needs an extra £30m to deliver services during the current budget period. With people already feeling the pinch as the cost of living continues to soar, this seems another unnecessary burden.
The objections to the plan are many. Town centre retailers feel it is another nail in their coffin as shoppers will simply drive on to the out-of-town superstores with their free car parks and bargain offers.
Other objectors point out that the parking charges will unnecessarily hit people attending doctors' surgeries or dentists which are often located on main streets.
But the overriding feeling among motorists is that the wardens charged with enforcing parking laws are over-zealous in their duties, seldom using any discretion and seemingly intent only in raking in the maximum amount of fines.
Motorists who may have overstayed their time in a legitimate parking bay by only a few minutes are treated the same as those who illegally block access for emergency vehicles or cause a danger to pedestrians.
The minister says the higher parking fines - increased by an unjustifiable 50% - will make towns safer. He may be right if the effect is to drive motorists off the streets to other locations. But that will be scant consolation to the owners of the empty shops left behind.
If he is serious in his intent then the full penalty should be imposed on those who cause genuine obstructions or hazards, and not indiscriminately on every motorist.
With the public, politicians and retailers all alienated by these plans, Mr Kennedy should take the sensible step of listening to the objections and rethinking his strategy.