Traffic wardens in Stornoway town centre are about to pass into history, as this week’s Comhairle meetings consign the traffic warden service to a budget-saving footnote.
Councillors at tomorrow’s (Wednesday 8 February) policy and finance committee meeting will be presented with the retiral of the traffic warden as a suggested means of achieving a £5,000 budget saving, in an appendix of the budget strategy and update.
The last traffic warden retired in 2022, and the decision on confirming discontinuation of the service will be made as an incidental additional saving in a much larger plan for cutbacks in services.
That stands in sharp contrast to the reaction when, just ten years ago, suggestions that Stornoway would lose its only traffic warden caused a public outcry.
In 2013, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar officers and councillors protested about a decision by Police Scotland to discontinue all traffic warden services in Scotland, with councils taking over responsibility for parking enforcement.
The Comhairle argued a unique case for islands, where numbers of offences are low, but services provided by a uniformed warden are much more wide-ranging.
Chief executive Malcolm Burr wrote to the then chief constable of Police Scotland saying: “Traffic wardens in Stornoway play a wider role than simple assistance with parking management and enforcement.
“Very frequently the local traffic warden assists the police in dealing with traffic congestion, at road traffic collisions and in the traffic management of community events, including funerals.
“This assistance is greatly valued, not just by Police Scotland locally, but by the whole community.”
The SNP group of councillors also lobbied saying: “Our traffic warden is a hard-working individual who has an excellent reputation and carries out her duties with great care and dedication.
“Also, the loss of any job in the Western Isles has repercussions to the local economy, which is fraught with its own challenges in these times."
The protest was effective and in September 2014 councillors were told: “Although there has been a national decision that Police Scotland would cease to provide the service, the Comhairle managed to agree a way forward in the short term and have now in place an agreement with Police Scotland for the continuation of the local service up until March 2015.”
Since then the Stornoway traffic warden position has been a national anomaly, the only remaining such post to be hosted by Police Scotland anywhere in the country.
The agreement with Police Scotland has been renewed over the years and, as recently as December 2020, CnES’s head of property and infrastructure Calum Mackenzie submitted a report to councillors on its continuation beyond the contract termination date of 31 March 2021.
He said at that time: “It is suggested that the Comhairle seek to extend the current service level agreement with Police Scotland for a further five years, which would cover on-street and off-street parking.”
That suggestion would have kept a traffic warden in place until 2026, but events have overtaken the service.
The last traffic warden retired in 2022, leaving the service in abeyance, and Police Scotland is no longer prepared to host a single traffic warden at one location in Scotland.
Now, instead of campaigning for the community value of the traffic warden, the loss of the familiar yellow-brimmed hat and recognisable uniformed figure in Stornoway town centre has been summed up as a saving through ‘traffic warden retiral’
The budget appendix lists the budget for traffic management at £29,000, and the saving from traffic warden retiral as £5,000. Additional notes state: “Possible reduced income. Officers will explore enforcement options.”