Some of you will have seen the Tweet by Will Quince MP that has kicked off a mini firestorm on Twitter since 5th August 2017: Just had to pay a parking fine for being 10mins late when in Devon, genuine mistake but caught on ANPR. Is it me or is £54 unreasonable?
Will then followed this up with a response last night: All those people having a pop at me today seem to forget that those on lower incomes are disproportionately affected by high parking fines.
I couldn’t help myself. I responded when I saw those tweets this morning…
Then I took a step back, thought about it and decided that a more constructive approach might be helpful and I wrote this open letter to him:
after reading your recent tweets and indeed responding to them, I decided a constructive open letter might be a better way forwards. If I may, here is a suggested ten point plan for you to consider. I would be happy to discuss this further.
1. Take a deep breath and consider that for almost everyone who responded, this wasn’t about high parking fines.
2. Accept that not everyone who responded hates you (or even your political party.)
3. See this as an opportunity. You’ve obviously touched a very raw nerve. People – including myself – are angry about the way people are treated on benefits.
4. Engage in research about fines and sanctions for those on benefits.
5. Consider whether it is reasonable that the same Darwinian justice is applied to both parking and benefits.
6. Try and understand that people are crying out for compassion and mercy – you could be a catalyst for change.
7. Don’t delete your tweet or bury your head in the sand.
8. Do speak with benefits claimants who have been sanctioned.
9. Look into proposals such as Universal Income.
10. Finally, take a look at your pay check and compare that to the income someone on benefits receives.
It is my intention to post these suggestions on my blog tomorrow (www.dragonlake.co.uk) If you would like to respond I would be happy to acommodate you.
I have a lot of sympathy for your situation, I don’t doubt that you meant no harm by your tweet about parking fines. Your response to the reaction you have received however suggests you don’t understand why we responded the way we did.
I’ve been on benefits. I remember clearly the feeling of helplessness, of powerlessness. I have tried in recent years to make sure I will never, ever have to be in that situation again. I realise though that there are no guarantees. You are in a very priveleged position. You are in the top 10% of earners in this country (using the Office of National Statistics.) I am now also in that bracket of earners.
The responses you have received are NOT about parking fines – they are (mostly) about anger and frustration that a Conservative government has made life unbearable for the poorest and weakest in our country. If you can recognise that and find a way to fight on behalf of the poorest and weakest, then you will actually turn this situation into a positive force for good.
Mark Anderson Smith