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Posts Tagged ‘parking tickets’

Richard Littlejohn writes in today’s Daily Mail about parking in Bromsgrove where a motorist was fined for overstaying in a car park after having bought a ticket, whilst travellers who had not bought a ticket were not fined because ‘they were occupying the space illegally’ . Littlejohn says he could fill his column every week with stories of ‘vindictive traffic wardens, insane parking restrictions, crippling fines and grasping bureaucrats.’ His solution to the debacle in Bromsgrove – refuse to pay your ticket by saying that you are not actually parking, just illegally occupying the bay – is not one that the RAC Foundation would support, but it is time local authorities got their parking houses in order.

In contrast, two days ago John Evans and Dominic Tobin wrote in the Sunday Times about the parking utopia that Swindon has become. No vindictive enforcement or grasping councillors there. Swindon has set its town centre stall out to attract car-borne shoppers with an enthusiasm that would have those who seek to control car-ownership through parking measures jumping up and down.

But maybe Swindon can see something, also identified by Pickles, which has been threatened by attitudes towards parking, and it’s not just footfall in the high street. In July this year, Mr Pickles’ Department published the following:

We believe that people can come together in strong, united communities if we encourage and support them to:

  • have shared aspirations, values and experiences
  • have a strong sense of mutual commitments and obligations, promoting personal and social responsibility

 Every time someone finds that a few minutes parking results in a fine of £50 or more, and that this is apparently legal, and that the local authority has supported it, he or she stands a good chance of losing faith in the rule of law and respect for the local authority.

No town or city could run efficiently with the chaos that would result from a ‘park anywhere at anytime’ regime. But not all enforcement results in smoother traffic flow. Why enforce for a few minutes overstay in a near empty car park? Why risk alienating local residents or visitors with a fine when other strategies could be used?

In Auckland all time-limits from on-street pay and display parking in the city centre have been removed and instead increasing tariffs are relied on to manage demand: the longer you park, the more expensive it becomes per hour. However, if you are parking for less than ten minutes it’s free.

This means that every parking space in the city has become a potential pick up or drop off space. So motorists no longer have to fear a ticket for dropping off a parcel or picking up a newspaper – so long as you park in a space and don’t stay for more than ten minutes.  

And those motorists who want to stay for three hours can – they just pay the going rate, which quickly increases in the most popular streets.

The same system could work here with ‘pay and display’ or mobile phone payments on –street, and the same payment methods plus ‘pay-on-foot’ in off-street car parks. Charges can be varied to suit local conditions but essentially you just pay for what you use.  If local communities wanted free parking in certain locations at certain times, that could be accommodated. The trick seems to be to get people to park legally in locations they can afford without the threat of being ticketed: to make them feel like valued citizens and customers rather than potential criminals.

Local authorities in the UK could do worse than examine the wider benefits of keeping their communities close, whilst still being paid for parking in designated car parks and spaces.

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Traffic wardens down, parking fines up. That’s the story in the figures obtained under freedom of information requests submitted to councils across the UK.

According to swiftcover.com – which obtained the data – there were 6.8 million tickets issued in 2011. That’s one every 4.6 seconds.

Yet there were fewer wardens in 2011 than 2010. 3,693 as compared to 3,882.

Of the tickets issued, one in four was disputed and of these 39% were overturned (down from 47% the previous year).

There are two points worthy of particular attention.

The first is the widely differing rate of success in appeals between councils.

In Bradford only 11% of appeals were granted, yet in Chichester that rose to 72%.

Are enforcers in West Sussex displaying a worrying lack of knowledge about the rules and regulations they are trying to uphold when they issue a ticket?

The second point of note is the £234 million raised from the fines. While many authorities actually run their parking operations at a loss, others make a handsome surplus and the question must again be asked as to what they do with the excess. The law says any money left after the parking provision bills have been paid has to be spent on transport or environmental services. This is a broad definition and the public will be left with the suspicion that some authorities see parking enforcement not as a way of managing congestion – which it should be – and more of a general revenue raiser to shore up budgets being cut by central government – which is illegal.

This has at least been recognised by the Local Government Minister Bob Neill who said: “There is no excuse for town halls using parking fines and motorists as cash cows. There are plenty of other ways for councils to raise extra income or make savings like better procurement and sharing back-office services.

“We want to see councils use parking to support the high street and help their local shops prosper. That’s why we have ended the last Government’s requirements to limit spaces, push up parking charges and encourage aggressive parking enforcement.”

Of course, if Mr Neil and his colleagues hadn’t cut the money allocated to councils then we wouldn’t be in this situation. But that’s the world we are in.

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