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Transport Committee publish local authority parking enforcement report

23 October 2013

Local authorities must publish annual parking revenue accounts urge MPs

Every local authority should publish an annual parking report to show precisely where their parking revenues come from and how any income is being used, says the Transport Committee.

Launching a report from a recent inquiry looking at Local Authority Parking Enforcement in England, Louise Ellman, chair of Transport Committee said today:

“Parking enforcement is necessary for managing demand on the roads, however, the use of parking charges and fines specifically to raise revenue by local authorities is neither acceptable nor legal*. Yet there is a deep-rooted public perception that   parking enforcement is used as a cash cow, so it’s essential that local authorities apply stringent transparency.

“Annual parking accounts would allow the public to see how much local revenue is derived from the enforcement of fines, and what proportion of this come from on or off street parking charges.

“It’s right that parking charges be determined locally, but hard to justify fines that substantially exceed penalties for more serious offences like speeding.  Central Government should freeze the maximum penalty charge and develop differential fines for less serious parking violations.
“Common sense also suggests the DfT’s statutory guidance should stipulate that local authorities implement a ‘grace period’ of 5 minutes after the expiry of paid-for time on any paid parking before enforcement officers issue a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN).
“A 25% penalty charge discount should also be introduced for motorists who pay within 7 days of losing any appeal to a parking tribunal. Local authorities currently offer a 50% discount if motorists pay their penalty charge within 14 days, but remove this benefit entirely from motorists who appeal to a tribunal.

“Motorists should also not have to appeal against PCNs where tribunal adjudicators have repeatedly identified a problem such as poor signage. Local authorities must resolve these sorts of problems and Government must impose a statutory requirement on them to refund monies received from invalid PCNs of this kind.

“Adjudicators should also be given powers to allow appeals where local authorities fail to follow statutory guidance concerning the use cameras (their use should not be routine) or issue PCNs in settings where exemptions (such as resident permits or Blue Badges) are not visible to such camera equipment.

“It is also unacceptable that enforcement regimes effectively force some companies to incur Penalty Charge Notices costing hundreds of thousands of pounds a year for carrying out their business. While businesses cannot be completely exempt from parking restrictions, local authorities must ensure that the need to restrict parking and manage congestion does not stifle the ability of businesses to trade and help grow the economy.”

In a report that looks closely at the architecture of parking enforcement Transport Committee also recommends:

  • The DfT’s Operational Guidance to Local Authorities on Parking Policy and Enforcement be clarified and updated, particularly in relation to rules for loading and unloading.
  • Local authority parking enforcement activities should in general do no more than cover costs. Where high demand for parking gives rise to unintentional surpluses these must be clearly explained.
  • The ring fence around parking revenues should not be removed.
  • Annual parking reports should be made mandatory for all local authorities so that information on parking is in the public domain. Such reports should explain how each authority measures performance in relation to parking enforcement activity and parking compliance.
  • Local authorities must work with local businesses to develop innovative parking solutions that work for their area while Government should consider developing business rates relief for businesses that invest in affordable town centre parking solutions.
  • The Workplace Parking Levy (WPL) scheme in Nottingham must be carefully evaluated before it is rolled out elsewhere. The guidance, regulations and legislation for WPL should be simplified and made fairer to introduce.
  • The Government should hold a roundtable discussion with road hauliers and local authorities to identify and then disseminate innovative ways of dealing with conflicts between delivery needs and parking controls.
  • The UK Government should initiate discussions at a European level on the feasibility of introducing EU-wide powers for the cross-border enforcement of parking penalty charges in a cost effective way.

* A recent judicial review judgement against Barnet Council concluded that the setting of parking charges in order to raise revenue is both unacceptable in public policy terms and illegal. 

Parking enforcement - facts and figures taken from the report

Local authorities in England have a collective parking surplus in the hundreds of millions of pounds. The exact amount is subject to debate: The Local Government Association reports a surplus from on and off street parking of £411 million in 2011/12; the RAC Foundation reports a surplus of £565 million in 2011/12; the Government (Department for Communities and Local Government) reports “net income on parking services (off-street and on-street parking) is expected to rise from £601 million in 2012–13 to £635 million in 2013–14, an increase of 5.6%” including income from both parking charges (e.g. pay and display tickets) and penalty charges (i.e. fines).

Some local authorities generate a surplus from enforcement alone, for example, in 2011/12:

Borough Overall parking income Overall parking expenditure Surplus on enforcement Surplus on parking account
Camden £37.2m £13.0m £5.6m £24.2m
Ealing £16.0m £7.2m £2.8m £8.8m
Harrow £7.0m £2.8m £2.8m £4.2m
Newham £14.6m £7.9m £4.1m £6.7m
Wandsworth £28.1m £11.2m £2.4m £16.9m
City of Westminster £77.8m £40.7m £6.8m £37.1m
The RAC Foundation published a report in August 2013 that illustrates parking surpluses outside London. Data from this study can be found at RAC Foundation website (PDF, 596KB). However, these tables do not separate out data on income from enforcement only. Rather they take into account income both from parking charges and fines (for on and off street parking offences) and do not include capital costs.

It is unclear what proportion of local authorities already produce a annual parking report. Figures from the Parking and Traffic Regulations Outside London Annual Report Award process suggest less than one third of local authorities outside London currently do so.

Penalty charge rates vary: The maximum penalty charge in London is £130 while outside London the same figure is £70. By comparison, a the maximum Fixed Penalty for speeding is £60 (unless the case is referred to court).

In 2006 3,568,462 PCNs i.e. parking tickets were issued by 160 councils in England (outside London) and Wales. The total number rose in 2010/11 increased by 21% to 4,319,708 – however, it is important to note that the number of councils adopting civil parking enforcement powers increased from 160 to 268 over this period (a 67% increase). In London, the number of PCNs issued over the same period fell from 5,185,772 in 2006/07 to 4,131,708 in 2011/12 (a 20% decrease).

Currently less than 1% of PCNs issued result in an appeal to the adjudicators. In 2011–12 PATAS (Parking and Traffic Appeals Service - London only) considered 56,327 appeals against parking enforcement actions and a further 8,629 appeals against traffic enforcement actions. In 2011–12, TPT adjudicators (England, outside London) heard 16,667 appeals, including traffic enforcement appeals. Approximately half of all appeals heard by PATAS and TPT adjudicators are allowed in favour of the appellant (motorist). Limited data (for outside London) suggests that the proportion of parking appeals that Councils  chose not to contest has dropped  in recent years.

Further information