26 December 2013

Pourquoi Monsieur Moutarde adore la France

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Mr Mustard often visits France and finds many things about their society to be far preferable to those of England. Twice a day near the boulangerie there are quite a lot of vehicle comings and goings as the French buy the fresh bread to which they are accustomed (mostly croissant and baguettes but lots of other goodies too). There is occasionally slight congestion but nothing to worry about. In England the response would be to post NSL traffic wardens near to bakers in the mornings and evenings and either issue hundreds of parking tickets or frighten shoppers away into the hands of supermarkets.

The reason why this doesn't happen was clear in the weekend edition of Le Figaro of 14/15 December. Currently the value of a parking ticket is the same across the whole country in being €17. Yes you did read that correctly. In England the higher level PCN is for £110 or about €130, which is more than seven times as much. The system is about to change with some regional variation being introduced. Each commune will be able to choose its own level of fine, and it is currently called a fine in France, subject to it not being more than the maximum cost to park for the day which in the case of Paris is €36 but only €15 in Marseille.

The aim of the new law is to get the percentage of people who pay for their parking up from the current average of 35%. Currently a total of €183m in fines is collected across the whole country in a year with a collection cost of €169m, which does make you wonder why collection costs in England are so high? One other change is that from now on instead of going into a central pot the fines will be retained by each commune. I can see France starting to go the way of England except that the level of fines won't be punitive as the PCN levels are here. Maybe compliance will rise instead (at least they have cash meters in the towns and cities that M. Moutarde has visited).

The system is also being decriminalised with the word "fine" no longer going to be used but "payment notification" and precise details of the collection process still have to be worked out. Let's hope it doesn't turn into the same remorseless system of cash generation that has overtaken England's town halls. Funnily enough, it probably won't as the French love a good revolution.

Yours frugally

M. Moutarde

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