Tuesday, February 17, 2009

City steps up parking fines... to balance the books

Balancing the books?
Thought it was about improving traffic flow and keeping the streets clear of congestion.

Sunderland Echo
By Ross Robertson
Drivers will face steeper fines if they are caught out by parking attendants.
Sunderland City Council is upping parking penalty charges from £60 and £40 to £70 and £50, bringing it in line with other towns and cities in the North East.

Council bosses say the move will prove an ever greater deterrent for parking pests as well as helping them balance the books.

The city's parking service costs £2.7million to run and produces a total income of £2.6million.

The new charges will bring in an extra £53,000 a year if a similar number of motorists are caught breaking parking rules.

The council was given two penalty charging options – Band 1 and Band 2 – when the new civil parking enforcement scheme was brought in last March.

It opted for Band 1, meaning motorists would either be fined £60 or £40, depending on how serious their parking offence was.

But after it was revealed that only a handful of other authorities in the country were operating on Band 1, senior councillors on the city's ruling cabinet have opted to switch to the higher band.Coun Jim Blackburn, responsible for transport and planning in the city, said: "All neighbouring authorities operate with Band 2 – and introducing the Band 2 charge will provide consistency.

"It will also help to make the service more financially sustainable."

Guidelines say it is sensible for councils to operate self-financing parking enforcement, but they should aim for motorists to have 100 per cent compliance with the rules – meaning no penalty charges are issued.

Coun Blackburn added: "It is anticipated that Band 2 charges will have a positive effect on the degree of compliance with parking and waiting restrictions."

Changing to Band 2 was also recommended by consultants RTA Associates, which carried out a review of civil parking enforcement in Sunderland.

The new charges will come into effect on March 16. Motorists will still get a 50 per cent discount if they pay within 14 days – but can expect a 50 per cent increase if they do not pay up on time.

Sunderland's parking enforcement regime has never been far from the headlines in recent years. An undercover investigation caught parking attendants making racist remarks and cracking jokes about disabled people. Private firm NCP was stripped of its contract to run the off-street parking enforcement regime in the wake of the damming BBC documentary.

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