PARKING problems in Accrington could soar after it was revealed there are now NO traffic wardens on the streets.
The situation is the result of plans to transfer responsibility for enforcing parking restrictions from the police to local councils. In preparation, Lancashire Constabulary has started to re-deploy its traffic wardens to other duties, including appointing them as police community support officers.
Inspector Phil Cottam, of Accrington Police, confirmed this week that the town's two traffic wardens had been moved to other posts as part of the county-wide shake-up. But he warned his officers - particularly the town centre team - would continue to deal with traffic and parking offences.
He said: "The two traffic wardens that we had have now both been moved to other duties, but we are still dealing with traffic problems by deploying police officers instead. In addition, our town centre team is available to deal with any traffic offences that may occur within that area."
Under the new system, Lancashire County Council and Hyndburn Council will work in partnership to employ "parking attendants" with similar responsibilities to traffic wardens. They currently employ a small number of these attendants to issue tickets at council-run car parks, but the new scheme will enable them to also deal with offences such as illegal parking on public highways.
A spokeswoman for Lancashire County Council said it was working to introduce the scheme, which has been successfully launched in other towns and cities, in 2004.
She added: "We have been looking into this for a number of months, but it does take quite a long time to go through the process. The system does have a lot of advantages. One of the main points is that it frees up police time to concentrate on other, more important issues. The other advantage is that the local authorities can put more resources into enforcing the systems.
"This will help improve overall traffic flow and access, reduce damage to the environment and improve safety for other road-users. It may sound like a major changeover but the only people who are really likely to notice a difference are those who park illegally."