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Alok Sharma's Westminster Diary: May 3, 2012

Published: 3 May 2012 09:293 comments

THE CURRENT parliamentary session, which has been going since May 2010 and is one of the longest in recent times, has now come to an end.

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Next Wednesday the Queen will be welcomed back to Westminster for the official opening of the new legislative session and the Government's agenda will be delivered in the Queen's Speech, which is televised.

The State Opening of Parliament is of course an event steeped in tradition and this time round I have been lucky enough to secure, by way of a random ballot of MPs, a seat in the House of Lords visitors' gallery to view the whole ceremony.

I am sure it will be an absorbing morning. Given the fast legislative pace the Coalition has set over the past two years it will be interesting to learn how many new Bills we will see coming before us in the coming months.

Locally I have been receiving more complaints about the bus lane camera on Southcote Lane. A big concern for many residents is the inadequate signposting to give advance warning of the restrictions.

Many people find themselves going into the bus lane by mistake, getting caught on camera and then being issued with a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN). One resident, who has successfully appealed against 11 PCNs, made a Freedom of Information request to Reading Borough Council and found that between July 2009 and October 2011 more than 7,700 PCNs were issued. The fine for PCNs is £60, with a 50% reduction if paid early, which means the camera raised somewhere between £231,000 and £462,000 in fines, despite only being in operation for 75 minutes a day on weekday mornings.

Interestingly, in the case of Romeo v Reading Borough Council, an Appeals Adjudicator ruled in November 2011 that 'the advance signs and the bus lane entry signs do not give adequate information about the bus lane'. As far as I am aware, the Council have not changed the signage since this appeal.

Motorists should certainly pay special care to signposts, but it seems to me that this particular camera has been something of a money-making wheeze for the Council.

I have written to the Council to find out what is being done to amend the signposting, and if, based on the adjudicator's ruling, the Council will be refunding those people who have already paid their fines.

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