Drivers get 10 minutes' grace: Traffic wardens will have to wait

Do the new rules go far enough?

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Parking meter on white

If you overstay your allotted time in a parking space by ten minutes, you should get away with it in future. Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has announced that traffic wardens are now instructed to wait until ten minutes after a parking ticket has expired before slapping the car with a ticket.

It's part of a package of reforms to make parking fairer. But does it go far enough to stop the war on motorists?



Changes

The ten minutes' grace will come as a huge relief to anyone who has arrived back at their car a few precious moments late, to discover that a traffic warden has already sprung into action to profit from their mistake. Now, they will have up to ten minutes to hurry back to the car before their poor time keeping is punished financially.

The rule comes as part of a package of measures to be introduced in the autumn - which also include a freeze on parking penalty charges, a ban on CCTV cars patrolling the streets for parking infringements, and introducing a new right for locals to challenge parking rules in their area - including things like the use of yellow lines and the charges. They are also planning to issue guidance to councils as to what they ought to do where a meter is out of order and there is no alternative way to pay - to stop councils simply slapping them with a fine.

Pickles said the banning of CCTV cars would make an enormous difference. He explained: "CCTV spy cars can be seen lurking on every street raking in cash for greedy councils and breaking the rules that clearly state that fines should not be used to generate profit for town halls. Over-zealous parking enforcement and unreasonable stealth fines by post undermine the high street, push up the cost of living and cost local authorities more in the long term. Today the government is taking urgently needed action to ban this clear abuse of CCTV, which should be used to catch criminals, and not as a cash cow."

He added that the measures would give hard working people and local shops a fairer deal by reining-in over-zealous parking enforcement practices, which often force people to shop in out-of-town centres or online.

But do they go far enough?

Regardless of the changes, parking charges and fines will remain a cash cow for councils. The government says that local authority revenue from parking rose from £608 million in 1997 to £1.3 billion by 2010. This is an enormous increase which is clearly coming at a time when councils are looking for additional sources of revenue.

Its figures also show that in the year to 2013, £353 million was made in fines and £369 million in parking charges. In total on-street parking brought in £721 million - and car parks earned councils £586 million.

While parking charges have been rising, they are dwarfed by the increasing sums made from fines: nine million parking fines are now issued every year by local authorities, and we reported earlier this month that councils make £353 million from parking fines.

The new rules will mean we spend marginally less on fines, but they are designed to trim the figures and give drivers a little wiggle room, rather than addressing the fundamental issue: that councils are using these fines and charges to make money rather than to make the streets safer.

Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: "As ever with parking, the story is less about the numbers and more about what the councils are trying to achieve. Parking must always be about managing congestion, not raising money and we would recommend that all local authorities produce an annual parking report detailing their parking strategy."