Monday, August 31, 2009

Days are numbered for lawless, uncontrolled local authority run civil parking enforcement

There is not a single issue which commands so much press coverage as parking enforcement. Lawless, out of control and unregulated for many years the time has come to set up an independent watchdog to censure local authorities who believe that they are above the law and who think that the motorist is fair game for what is now seen as nothing more than a stealth tax.

As for charging for hospital car parks ... free in Scotland, free in Wales and hospital trusts in England filling their boots with a tax on the sick, the elderly and front line health workers. What has this country come to?

Local authorities breach parking guidelines
Consumer group Which? says motorists are being penalised unfairly when issued with parking tickets

Ali Hussain
The Times
18th August 2009

Six local authority councils have been accused by the consumer watchdog Which? of breaching Government guidelines by setting targets for the number of parking tickets issued by their wardens.

A freedom of information request by Which? found that the councils - Basildon, Richmond upon Thames, Lewisham, Bromley, Shropshire and Carmarthenshire - all “expect a certain number of tickets to be issued.”

Setting such targets is against Department for Transport guidelines.
The Department for Transport said: “Our guidance to local authorities is clear that they should not set targets for the number of penalty charge notices they issue. Parking charges are a tool to manage demand for road use and they should not be used as a revenue raising measure.
"Local authorities are expected to comply with our guidance and are accountable to their electorates, auditor and the courts. Any concerns about the operations of local councils should be raised with the council leader or local ombudsman.”

Which? also found that some healthcare trusts in England, such as Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital and Southampton University Hospitals, are making more than a million pounds a year from hospital car park fees. Others are making losses and subsidising their car parks from money intended for healthcare, according to Which.
Martyn Hocking, editor of Which? magazine, said: "There are good reasons why hospitals charge for their car parks but if they're making large profits, there's clearly scope to reduce the amount they charge."

Which? added that many parking signs in urban areas are obscured or have defunct phone numbers and that the parking fines charged, of between £100-£360, may also be too high.
Hocking said: "Of course it's fair to stop people parking on your land or to charge them a fee for the privilege, but it should be absolutely clear where people can and can't park, and what the charges and penalties are. It's not right that huge sums can be extracted from unsuspecting drivers, or that incentive schemes can be used to discourage people from appealing fines.”

Patrick Troy, chief executive of the British Parking Association, said: “With nearly 30 million cars on the road in the UK, parking management and enforcement is essential for daily life, namely for reducing congestion, improving road safety, encouraging sustainable methods of transport and stimulating local economies. There is always room for improvement and we are committed to working with our members, partners and government to improve legislation, rid the industry of bad practices and set new ground rules, to make life easier for all.”

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