One way to make an intrinsically unpopular service more acceptable is to appoint a respected organisation to manage it. NCP probably aren't that organisation.
A while ago, I heard that Cambridge City Council use the British Legion to manage their parking scheme. I've repeated the claim a couple of times, but can't remember where I heard it. So, I decided to find out for myself.
A Google search for "Cambridge parking enforcement" found this page, which refers to a contract with "Legion Parking Services". So, is this the British Legion, or has someone been misled by the name? Well, Googling for "Legion Parking Services" turns up their web site at http://www.legiongroup.co.uk/. Sure enough, "Legion Group plc is a subsidiary of the Royal British Legion Attendants Company Trust (RBLA), a registered charity with the aim of promoting employment opportunities for ex servicemen and women. "
Whether you see this as an opportunity to support and reward servicemen and women who have risked their lives for our country, or an way to turn swords into ploughshares, it seems like a pretty good thing to do.
Interestingly, they've been providing parking management services since 1928. Blimey - I guess the job must have changed a lot in that time!