Independent traders’ group LB First has joined the campaign supporting a much-loved Waitrose car park attendant whose role is feared to be under threat by the installation of ANPR cameras.
In recent weeks the LBO has been inundated with calls from readers about Keith McAngus and have vowed to boycott the supermarket if his role is made redundant.
The supermarket has decided to install cameras at its town centre branch due to customers increasingly outstaying the free parking limit, but say his employment is a matter for Britannia Parking as he is their employee.
To keep the pressure on, LB First chairman Gennaro Borrelli has now written to both companies, highlighting his group’s concerns that Keith is set to be replaced by a camera.
He said: “We would urge you strongly to seriously reconsider this decision for a number of reasons. Firstly Central Bedfordshire Council tried to introduce a similar system in the multi-storey car park and after many months of problems it had to be scrapped and the old system reintroduced.
“There were many issues such as wi-fi problems and bad weather generally meant the system struggled to read the number plates amongst other things.
“Secondly many customers have said that cutting down the time allowed to one hour is simply not long enough when doing a weekly shop let alone at busy times of the year such as Christmas.
“Thirdly and most importantly Keith does the most amazing job of running the car park with great efficiency, finding people spaces, helping elderly customers back to their cars with their shopping, and moving cars on.
“He has excellent customer skills, always friendly and polite with a smile on his face in all weathers. He has become very well known by local residents and is liked and respected by customers. He is without doubt a great ambassador for your company going above and beyond his job role and a real asset for our town.
“With the prospect of a second and much larger Aldi store opening on the Grovebury Road retail park alongside M&S Food the backlash could be immense with customers opting to go there where parking will not be an issue.
“I would therefore respectfully ask you to please reconsider your decision as I fear the negative impact could be huge on Keith and our town centre.”
In their response, Waitrose agreed that Keith was “very popular” but pointed out he was a Britannia employee.
The supermarket said: “We understand they are looking into the possibility of him relocating to another local site. We have also invited him to apply for a position with us.
“Cameras are being introduced in all our car parks. We’re sorry we’re having to make these changes however some users have been exceeding the time limit of free parking we provide and it’s become increasingly challenging for us to manage.
“This has resulted in it being difficult for our customers to find spaces because of the pressure car parking has come under, especially during busy trading periods, and we have needed to take steps to address this. The new system is designed to ensure we continue to look after our customers, while still providing free parking for other shoppers visiting the area.”
Two weeks on from the original letter, Britannia, however, has not responded to LB First, which Mr Borrelli described as “not very professional”. He added: “I think they are trying to duck the issue, we’ve heard rumours nothing will be happening until after Christmas now.”
When previously approached by the LBO on the matter recently, Britannia remained tight-lipped.
A spokesman said: “Britannia Parking takes its responsibilities as a car park operator and manager very seriously. It is our policy not to comment on individual staff and their personal circumstances.”
In the wake of such massive public support, the LBO approached Keith but he stated he did not wish to comment at this stage.