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Ministers should realise extracting fines for trivial offences has a knock-on effect on local economy

letter of the day: PARKING TICKETS

Yesterday, I went to Hillsborough for a coffee with a friend. It's not a place I know well. Unfortunately, I overstayed my welcome by 17 minutes and got a parking ticket.

Had I parked on the other side of the street with two wheels up the kerb, blocking pedestrians, prams and the disabled, I would have been all right, it seems.

However, mea culpa; I paid my "early bird" £45 fine to avoid the full £90 fixed penalty, but the experience was interesting from the feelings it elicited.

Rather than feeling suitably chastened for my wrongdoing, I was angry at the size of the fine.

It is simply unjustifiable to fine someone £90 - or even £45 - for a trivial parking offence, or straying into a bus lane (where there are usually no buses) for a few minutes, or even seconds. The punishment needs to fit the "crime".

Ministers need to realise that, when you extract millions of pounds in outrageous fines from so-called "personal disposable income", that is money which is being lost to the local economy.

It's hard to quantify the knock-on damage fines of this nature are causing local businesses, but this is how it has nudged my behaviour.

Hillsborough is now the village where I got a parking ticket; a place to be avoided. And I won't be hurrying back.

I'm not going to take the risk of bus lane violations, or further parking fines this Christmas and feel justified doing the bulk of my festive shopping online, or shopping out of town, where parking is free (and the coffee just as good).

In hard cash terms, that 17 minutes overtime yesterday means that I will have £45 less to spend in local shops and several hundred pounds of Christmas shopping which will be done online, which could be done locally.

It's time to get real about these excessive fines and stop treating the public as a cash cow to bail out Stormont's cash-strapped public services.


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