Parking Permit Renewal Blues

Editor gets cantankerous over efforts to renew

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As editor of I am allowed the occasional rant. I know I have had rants before (I can remember ranting about rubbish in Acton Park, for instance), but I’m not often driven to public rants so if you’re not a fan of rants then please read no further.

Today’s rant is aimed at Ealing Council Parking Services with a side-swipe at Royal Mail for good measure. 

I realised this week that my Zone K1 parking permit is due to expire at the end of June. Normally, I would have received a renewal notice but nothing has appeared yet. I therefore began to try and talk to someone at Parking Services to have a discussion about why my permit renewal form has not yet arrived, whether it is on its way and whether I can renew on the phone using a credit card. 

After 10 attempts (this is not an exaggeration)  at calling 020 8825 6677 which is the listed number for Ealing Council Parking Services, I decided to give up. Mostly, the line was busy but three or four times I listened optimistically to the phone ringing for half a minute before the disappointing news that a posh-sounding lady imparted to me: “sorry, there is no reply.”

I did try Customer Services, but when I got through to them on the fifth attempt they said they were unable to help me. I probably wouldn’t have put this all on the site if I hadn’t had problems before getting through to Parking Services recently about another matter. Am I the only one who experiences problems getting through? I can’t be. I reported a similar experience in January, posh lady included, whilst investigating another parking glitch.

My on-line experience was equally unsuccessful. A facility exists to renew your permit on-line. It appears to require a pin which I don’t seem to have. Does anyone else have one, I wonder? However, after several goes at putting in different versions of my permit number, I was told it was ‘unable to find my existing permit’ and so I gave up.

Again, this wouldn’t be worth mentioning if I didn’t already know that the on-line payment of parking fines and vouchers has been out of order for many, many months. (See links above right). Surely it’s time to repair it. Other Councils seem to have excellent Parking Services on-line facilities in full working order. I sent an email to Parking Services asking existential questions like ‘why have I not been sent a renewal form for my parking permit?’ and ‘have I ever had a pin?’. My question about whether revenues to the Council from parking fines are behind this situation was probably verging on the irrational, but I think I could claim that I have been driven to throwing out wild conspiracy theories by the experience of trying to buy my parking permit for the next year. 

I then spent a very dull half hour printing out the form, filling it out, finding a suitable recent bill and packaging the whole caboodle together with cheques (I applied for some parking vouchers too and thought it prudent to enclose separate cheques in case something was wrong with either application). I do apologise if I am boring you. I would much rather be doing something else, too. Anyway, my package was all ready but seemed a little heavy so I decided to try and work out which stamp I should use once I had used my electronic scales (invaluable since the Post Office banished our much-loved local branch in Churchfield Road).  

But the Royal Mail website is not designed to tell you simply what stamps you need to put a package in the mail. It is too intent on giving you information about guaranteed next day deliveries and personal mailing needs. And I felt in need of some air, so set off to see Mr Taank in Churchfield Road who misses his post office so much that he has opened a shop where you will find scales and stamps and everything you could possibly need in order not to lose even a minute of your life frowning at the Royal Mail website trying to work out where they have hidden the price of stamps.  

PS: Since returning from my trip, package and contents now consigned to the whim of Royal Mail,  I am impressed to report that I’ve received a reply to my email. It didn’t answer all of my questions, but it did confirm that my renewal form had been sent to me – a week ago, asked whether I had still not received it (er no – it hasn’t miraculously appeared in the 2 hours between my sending the email and receiving the reply); and also that in the package I will have been sent my pin. I have asked Ealing Council to let me know – again - when they expect the Parking Services section of their website to be operating and whether they can do anything about the faulty phones. I will report back once I hear from them. 

If you are  having similar problems with Ealing Council Parking Services, do let me know about it. It might make me feel better.

Clare Gittins

June 17, 2010