Wardens fear 'ticket rage'

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TRAFFIC WARDENS are being given the same training as nightclub bouncers, to help them cope with a surge in "ticket rage" attacks by drivers.

Thirty assaults a week are reported on parking attendants in London alone. Ten years ago such attacks were rare, but even more violence is expected after proposals to increase parking fines in the capital are approved this week.

The Transport Committee for London (TCL) plans to raise council parking penalties above the rate of inflation, from pounds 60 to pounds 80 for central London and from pounds 40 to pounds 60 in outer London. Motoring groups say the increases, expected to be implemented on 1 April 1999 by the Department of Transport, will provoke more assaults. They accuse councils, which took pounds 239m in fines last year, of profiteering.

Last month, the House of Lords rejected a Bill by London authorities to make it a specific offence to attack a warden, like an assault on police.

Westminster council, which tops the league for the amount of revenue in parking fines, is training its staff in "non-confrontational" techniques. "We are disappointed the Bill was rejected because it was intended to protect staff," said Alan Bradley, chairman of the council's environment and planning committee. Camden council is also considering training its staff in self-defence tactics used by police. Paul Clyndes, a traffic warden for Camden council and Unison branch health and safety officer, says his colleagues are worried that fine increases will inflame drivers further.

He has been spat at, verbally abused and threatened with violence. After the television programme Clampers was screened, Mr Clyndes says assaults increased from one to four a week in his area. I've had my sexuality called into question, I've had things thrown at me and I've been chased. Colleagues have had cars driven at them and been driven over.

"It has become acceptable for people to vent their anger on us and treat us like second class citizens. But there is no bonus if we issue more tickets. The police should do more to prosecute the attackers."

The AA also condemns the increases, saying a rise in "ticket rage" is likely, and the changes contravene government guidelines stating the discount for council fines paid early should be in line with police penalties.

The TCL says the increases are intended more as a deterrent. A spokesman added: "People get irate if they get a ticket, not because the price has increased."