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Parking Services

All change (again) for our traffic wardens

We had a long, long cabinet meeting last night – over three and half hours. The meeting was dominated by discussion of whether or not we should outsource our Civil Enforcement Officers, these are the people that we used to call traffic wardens. See paper here.

About 30 of these staff turned up to hear what was going on. Previously they had been protesting outside the town hall chanting “In-house, in-house”. I went to talk to them outside before the meeting but it was hard to find actual CEOs amongst the union reps, Socialist Worker sellers and other hangers-on.

Frankly these staff have had every right to feel neglected over the last few years and we all understand why they would like to stay where they are for the time being. When the Conservatives took over in 2006 the parking contractor which employed them was called Vinci and the nature of the contract they had struck with the previous administration, which incentivised them to give out more tickets, caused us to review this contract and award it to Apcoa. Since then the council has given out about 2/3rds of the tickets it used to.

Apcoa pulled out of this business at very short notice at the end of 2008 leaving us in a bit of a bind and we bought these staff in-house temporarily. We have now come to the end of an exhaustive process of evaluating potential providers of this style of service and last night we decided to go with the market leader NSL. It is very understandable that the staff do not like the prospect of working for the fourth employer in four years and losing the possibility of having their terms and conditions harmonised with those of other council employers which would mean that ultimately they had to work fewer hours to earn the same income.

Unison rep Adam Smith (unfortunate name for a man of the left!) spoke very well on behalf of the CEOs who would have liked the service to remain in house. He talked about how this is “not a broken service”. I agree with him and I, and the rest of the cross party parking specialist scrutiny panel, agreed with him in spring 2008 when the CEOs were being managed by Apcoa. The panel’s report, see here, made 17 recommendations to cabinet as to how to improve the parking service but not one of them concerned CEOs. Our parking service still has a way to go before we can say we have put it right but for some time now the main focus of improvement has not been the people on the streets. It is in the back office, where we do the admin and consider appeals, where there is still work to be done.

Outsourcing the CEOs lets us keep focussed on the tasks that still need to be done. This is a good deal for the council as it ensures that this task is undertaken by a large and capable contractor and it is a good deal for staff who will be working for a market leading company that will give them good opportunities for training and progression which we can’t at the council.

5 replies on “All change (again) for our traffic wardens”

All well and good and wordy, but on the face of it it seems extremely strange for 100 Traffic Wardens to face the prospect of three different employers (Apcoa, Ealing Councul and NCP) in the space of less than 6 months.

Eric,

What is it with you and facts? I said Apcoa pulled out at the end of 2008 so the staff will have endured two changes in 18 months. This is not good for them but it is not by design (at least not the Council’s). Apcoa pulled out of their contract with little notice and did not give us the opportunity to run a competition to replace them. We were therefore forced to bring the service in house temporarily. We would rather not have done so but it would have been bad news for everyone if we had just bundled the staff out of the door again without a proper procurement process.

Phil

If the wardens were outhouse and then were taken in on a temporary basis, then surely expectations were made more than abundantly clear that they would later be working for a new contractor. Is this actually about management, because as you imply they don’t have much of a leg to stand on, and I am not now very sympathetic to their cause.

I wish Ealing would bite the bullet and rename these people Traffic Wardens. The word Enforcement has such negative associations. The acronym is just plain stupid. If they now have additional powers, then call them Street and Traffic Wardens – because warding, if there were such a verb, is what they do.

George,

You have hit the nail on the head. The staff have always been aware that this was a temporary arrnagement. They have every right to feel messed around but it was always clear they would remain with a contractor.

The term CEO is a legal definition which is why we use it. I know it is a bit irritating but there it is.

Phil

Thank you

I usually do hit the nail on the head!

Had you spent more time reflecting on life by rowing on the Adur you would know what I mean!

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