Parking enforcers frozen out by snow

THE big freeze has cost council chiefs more than £700,000 in lost parking revenue in just two weeks, it has emerged.

The wintry conditions have stopped the city's army of parking enforcers from patrolling the streets amid fears that the whiteout would lead to drivers successfully appealing tickets.

Now it has emerged that since the first snowfall at the end of November, the city council has lost an average of more than 50,000 a day.

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Parking attendants have been unable to carry out normal duties because heavy snow has obscured parking restrictions.

According to the council, restrictions were "almost entirely unenforceable" between November 28 and December 13.

During that time, parking attendants were employed to help police move more than 100 abandoned cars.

Normal service resumed on the 13th, but there have been further disruptions to parking enforcement since then because of the weather.

The news came as it emerged residents across Edinburgh and the Lothians are to be handed a reprieve in the weather, with no further snow forecast over the next few days.

A spokeswoman for the Met Office said light snow showers would hit the area overnight and this morning, but no more snow is forecast between then and Boxing Day.

However, temperatures in the city are set to dip as low as -10C tonight, and -15C in some parts of the Lothians.

Forecaster for the Met Office, Helen Chivers, said: "Christmas Day at the moment looks dry - it might be a bit foggy first thing and certainly it will be extremely frosty, but there will be bright sunshine.

"Temperatures will get up to around zero."

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The snow has caused chaos across the Capital, and the council said 118,000 in potential parking ticket revenue had been lost per week, while the figure from pay-and-display ticket machines was around 225,000 per week.

The council has also lost around 7000 a week in income usually raised through parking permit sales, parking bay suspensions and vehicle removals.

Council bosses are now set to take measures to offset the impact of the loss in revenue.

Councillor Gordon Mackenzie, the city's transport convener, said: "We faced major challenges last winter but, thanks to good budget management, were still able to commit the investment required to deal with resulting extra maintenance.

"Indeed, we're continuing to improve the overall condition of our roads. We will adopt a similar approach this year."

Bus companies blamed drivers who had abandoned their vehicles for forcing them to cancel services earlier this month. At one point, Lothian Buses cancelled all its services for the first time in 25 years.

It is up to the police to instruct removal of vehicles causing an obstruction, but this is unlikely to have been the case for many cars which were parked in the city centre.

Meanwhile, the AA revealed that Monday was the busiest day ever in its 105-year history, with more than 28,000 breakdowns.

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Residents in Midlothian are being warned not to expect the same level of "emergency weather service" during the festive period.

A council spokeswoman said the 38 road-gritting crews and three hired ploughs would continue to work round the clock, but the number of workers clearing footpaths would drop from 146 to around 50.

Council leader, Councillor Derek Milligan, said: "Because we rely heavily at this time of year on contracted workers from the construction industry coming in to clear pavements, when the holiday period comes they won't be around.

"That means that the 50 or so people we do have available will be focusing on town centre footpaths and pavements on main roads and around health centres, etc."

A spokeswoman for Edinburgh City Council added: "We are in negotiations with our contractors and have offered enhanced financial incentives to those contractors willing to forego their usual holiday period.

"This, added to our own staffing compliment, will result in significant extra resources being available throughout the festive period."

Yesterday, a city council spokesman said all schools in the city were set to open today, with the only exception being Davidson's Mains nursery, which will remain closed due to underground pipes being frozen.

Five squads have also been set up across the Capital to tackle the worst potholes, with repairs being carried out on a priority basis. Each squad has between four and six men.