19 February 2013

1.5m people in UK don't have a bank account

The wrong question - Pay-by-phone is the elephant in the room

When coming round from his slumbers one recent morning (a lovely image for readers to have in their head) Mr Mustard heard on Radio4 that 2 million people did not have a bank account in the UK (or Britain or England - Mr Mustard was only half awake). Well he thought that is 2m people who face great difficulties if they want to visit Barnet and we do want them all to visit Barnet at some point but why bother when paying for parking is such a pain and it is easier to go elsewhere and have an easier life.

The exact figure of the number without a bank account is unclear. The Daily Telegraph has it at 1.5million. Looking further afield Mr Mustard found a report from the Centre for Strategy & Evaluation Services which looked at the area of financial exclusion in 2009. That found that 100% of Danes have a bank account, 98% of people in the UK and 49% in Bulgaria so those Bulgarians who move to Barnet in the future are in for a rude awakening.

The parking reviews which are currently being carried out across the borough are proceeding at snail's pace, not asking the right questions and not resulting in the steps which are necessary to allow everybody easy access to a payment system that meets their needs.

Let us see them

Now the perceived parking problems had to be put into order of importance. That leads to a problem. Is it a bigger problem that parking is £2 an hour or that if you don't have a credit/debit  card you cannot pay? everyone will have a different idea.

In North Finchley 54 businesses said it was the cost and 48 cited the pay-by-phone system as the main concern but another 18 said the lack of pay&display (by which they are taken to mean cash meters) so taken together that is 66 who think it is the payment method which is the most important. The cost of parking was reduced although much more could be done by the council to actually attract people to the High Street rather than not putting them off but nothing of import was done about aboutcash payment options.

In Chipping Barnet, which has fewer shops, there was a lower response but 20 of the 38 respondents cited pay-by-phone as the main problem. 4 others said the lack of coin operated parking meters. Did that lead to cash parking meters being re-introduced? No.

Finally for now, Edgware. 19 responses here. Largest complaint, yes you guessed it, pay-by-phone.

The "wrong" method of questioning was used. What the council should have asked was closed questions such as:

Would you like cash parking meters to be re-instated?

Mr Mustard suspects that the answer would have been yes in 99% of replies but then the council would have been obliged to do something they don't want to do because they want to save the costs of collecting the cash which is to Mr Mustard's mind completely the wrong way of looking at things.

If you are a business in a town centre yet to be surveyed please write "I want to see coin operated parking meters in this town" on every page of the questionnaire.

Let people who want to pay-by-phone do so. Let those who want to pay by coin do so. In business the customer is meant to be king but here in Barnet we have been scuppered for now by the soi-disant King of Bling (Brian Coleman signed the DPR to remove parking meters and scrap them and it will take a bold decision by Dean Cohen to put them back and Mr Mustard has yet to see him do anything bold).

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

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