MPs call for common sense from traffic wardens

parking ticket

The Commons Transport Committee has hit on an unusual suggestion to see off claims that councils are using parking tickets as cash cows: they should let drivers off for the first five minutes after tickets expire.

It's part of a raft of suggestions which could save us a fortune in fines.
The committee published a report addressing the fact that councils across England collectively make hundreds of thousands of pounds from parking charges and tickets every year (the actual figure is calculated as £411 million by the LGA and £565 million by the RAC).

It pointed out that: "The setting of parking charges in order to raise revenue is not only unacceptable in public policy terms, it is illegal."

While it is up to councils to set parking charges, there is more oversight on penalties. So it set out a number of proposals to make penalties fairer and more transparent.

The report suggests that the government should bring in a grace period of five minutes after parking tickets expire. It adds that the approach is already used by Cambridgeshire County Council. And that: "A common sense approach to parking enforcement should minimise the issuing of Penalty Charge Notices to motorists who make honest mistakes."

It said that overall charges could be considered excessive, and that: "It is hard to justify parking fines that are substantially more than the fines for more serious offences like speeding." It therefore proposed a freeze for the maximum charges that councils could impose - and the introduction of smaller charges for less serious offences.

It also suggested councils should have to publish annual parking-charge reports to show what they are making from parking, how they are making it, and what they are spending it on.

It added that local authorities usually remove the 50% discount for prompt payment if a motorist appeals the charge, which it said could put people off appealing. It suggested a 25% discount for those who pay within seven days of losing an appeal.

And it said that CCTV cameras should not be routinely used to issue Penalty Charge Notices.

It concluded that: "Ultimately, local authorities and others involved in parking enforcement, must keep in mind the needs of road users for whom they are providing parking services. Local authorities must ensure that what they do is reasonable for the people who obey the restrictions and fair for those who inadvertently contravene them."

Will it happen?
The initial signs look good. The government has welcomed the report. The BBC quoted a spokesman saying: "We welcome this report, which strengthens the case for changes to be made to parking rules."

It comes at the same time as a variety of different announcements which show a consensus is building around clamping down on charges and fines.

Earlier this week Eric Pickles called on high streets to allow 30 minutes of free parking in order to encourage business.

Today Brandon Lewis, the high streets minister, called for an end to parking charges on the high street altogether, and more flexibility from wardens when someone overstays their ticket by a few minutes.

Last month Pickles called for an end to the use of CCTV in order to issue parking tickets. At the time he suggested a change to parking law could be in the pipeline by Easter 2014.

The Transport Committee has made a vote-winning, high-street boosting range of suggestions, many of which may well eventually make it to the statute book.

Read Full Story Click here to comment