A group of local traders in Rainham have recently joined the campaign to force Havering Council to stop penalising local shoppers with its use of CCTV Smart Cars. The cars, which are used by the council to impose parking restrictions, have proved highly controversial since their introduction. Critics have argued that they unfairly target specific areas, and have had the effect of scaring away customers from shops around Upminster Road South, and so are damaging local businesses.

Lucy Swan and Billie Hanmore from Village Blooms Florists have thrown their weight behind the campaign against the CCTV cars. Miss Swan, who runs the Village Blooms Florists, has claimed that the cars are hurting her business. She said: "I just feel like there's this big presence, and it is scaring people away. People don't want to just pop in and then get hit with a parking ticket."

One particularly contentious aspect of the council's use of the smart cars is that there is no specific time limit as to when a parking fine can be issued. A car parked incorrectly for less than 10 seconds will still be liable to pay a full penalty.

For one trader in particular, this is proving incredibly damaging. Chris Clark, the manager of The Wood Shop in Upminster Road South, has stated that the parking policy fails to take into account certain trading issues. He said; "With our shop, you can't just park, walk down the road, get what you want and then walk back.

"You need to be able to load and unload, because these are large pieces of wood we are talking about here. This is having a really bad affect on business, and the council needs to use some sense."

John Kirkwood, the owner of another small business in the area has been leading the campaign. Along with local MP Jon Cruddas, he has collected nearly 1,000 signatures already for his petition calling on Havering council to stop their unfair use of the CCTV cars.

Mr Kirkwood is particularly fearful of the impact the policy will have on traders in the area, saying that; "Businesses will soon be closing, it's only a matter of time."

He goes on; "The policy doesn't even make financial sense. There has been no increase in revenue from Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) since the cars were introduced, and the council have not managed to reduce the number of paid traffic wardens. Havering council are simply wasting our council tax harassing residents and destroying businesses"

Local MP Jon Cruddas agrees; "In the middle of a recession you would expect the local council to be doing everything possible to help local traders likes these guys, not punishing them. This policy is illogical and counter-productive. It needs to be changed now."

Rainham MP Jon Cruddas has joined forces with small businessman John Kirkwood and former local councillor Tony Ellis

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