Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by Transport Committee for London (IT 171)



  1. The Transport Committee for London is a statutory joint committee of all 33 London local authorities and has responsibilities in a number of areas, principally:

    —  Transport for people with disabilities, including concessionary fares for elderly and disabled people and the Taxicard scheme.

    —  Operation of the London night time and weekend lorry ban.

    —  Operation of the Parking Appeals Service.

    —  Setting parking penalties.

    —  Operation of the TRACE service relating to clamped and removed vehicles, and other operations connected with parking enforcement.

    —  The operations of London's traffic signals and control systems, through the Traffic Control Systems Unit (which is due to be transferred to the GLA).

  2. The Committee welcomes the publication of the first White Paper on Transport policy for more than 20 years.

  3. The Committee supports the objectives of the White Paper in general and agrees that better integration, at all levels, is essential for this.

  4. The Committee agrees that reducing the volume of car use and increasing the attractiveness of public transport, walking and cycling is essential both to improve accessibility within London and to reduce the environmental impact of transport, particularly air pollution, in London.

  5. Many of the detailed proposals of the White Paper lie outside the Committee's terms of reference at present. There, however, significant proposals which the Committee can properly comment on. These include:

    —  parking proposals, including enforcement and the workplace parking levy;

    —  congestion charging and its enforcement;

    —  travel for people with mobility handicaps;

    —  lorry control.

Parking controls

  6. The White Paper sees parking control as one of the key elements to control traffic levels in cities and proposes a variety of measures to address this. These include:

    —  better regulation and charging of parking;

    —  better enforcement;

    —  workplace parking levy.

  7. The London boroughs have considerable experience of the first two of these subjects since the implementation of the 1991 Road Traffic Act, which decriminalised the enforcement of most parking regulations within London and transferred the responsibility for enforcement to the London boroughs.

  8. Decriminalised enforcement has been a success on three main counts:

    —  effectiveness

    —  acceptability

    —  efficiency

  9. The London boroughs have managed to increase the level of enforcement to almost double the extent of the Metropolitan Police during the early 1990 with a consequent and measurable impact on compliance.

  10. This has been achieved without increasing the level of public disquiet over parking enforcement because:

    —  boroughs have reviewed parking regulations as a result of having enforcement responsibility;

    —  direct political accountability for the style of enforcement is achieved through local councils;

    —  parking adjudicators provide an easily accessible and independent mechanism for challenging enforcement decisions.

  11. Retention of the penalty income by boroughs has ensured that in most cases enforcement now takes place at no cost to the public purse, while surpluses in some boroughs, which are statutorily ring fenced, help support worthwhile public transport improvements such as London's concessionary fares scheme as well as traffic calming measures.

  12. This is not to say that enforcement is perfect. There are, indeed, further changes that are needed both in legislation and approach. The London boroughs have sponsored some changes to the legislation in the 1995 London Local Authorities Act and further changes are currently being pursued through a current London Local Authorities Bill. Borough priorities are also changing to give greater emphasis on, for example, enforcement of bus lanes and bus corridors and this may also change the emphasis of enforcement, for example, by relying more on mobile parking attendants and tow-away vehicles than before.

  13. Overall, though, decriminalised parking enforcement by local authorities is successful and is worth considering as a model for other forms of traffic enforcement, particularly camera enforcement of offences such as moving (as opposed to stationary) contraventions of bus lane regulations (already legislated for) and red light jumping.

  14. Parking enforcement and parking control must be seen, however, in terms of what is acceptable to the public and "artificial" restrictions, whose values is not apparent to the motoring public are hard to enforce and artificially high charges are difficult to sustain politically. The Committee supports advice from LPAC that parking charges should be set so as to aim to achieve 85 per cent occupancy rates.

  15. As tools for reducing levels of traffic, parking controls, on their own, will be hard to apply in practice. If, however, accompanied with other devices to reallocate road space (such as, to bus or cycle lanes, better pavement facilities and street furniture, better crossing facilities for pedestrians or more loading spaces for deliveries) they can have a significant impact. Such road space reallocation would also address the problem that simply reducing the number of vehicles parked in areas such as central London may reduce the number of trips by car to the area and release capacity that is taken up by generated through traffic, thus resulting in no reduction in congestion or pollution while potentially adversely affecting economic activity.

  16. This issue needs also to be taken into account in the work place parking levy concept, which is a further mechanism to address car journey trip ends.

The Workplace Parking Levy

  17. There is a strong argument for raising a levy on workplace parking, which in most cases represents an untaxed benefit in kind. Given the market value of off street parking in central London this untaxed benefit can be as high as £5,000 a year. This clearly represents a financial incentive to driving to work and it has been estimated that as many as 70 per cent of those who drive to work in central London have reserved free parking provided.

  18. The workplace parking levy provides an approach to this issue. In implementing such a levy, proper consideration would need to be given to:

    —  the objectives of the levy (whether to raise revenue or reduce traffic);

    —  the extent of the levy (whether to include contract parking in public car parks or other non-workplace car parks);

    —  the scale of the levy (related to the scale of the current benefit);

    —  the mechanisms for assessing and collecting the levy (including enforcement).

  19. Overall, the more restricted the scope of the levy, the easier it will be to avoid payment and therefore reduce the effect in terms of traffic reduction; the more limited the scale of the payment the less effect the levy will have in either discouraging car trips or raising revenue. A suggestion of £50 per space per year has been made. In central London this is likely to raise relatively little and have almost no effect on car trips.

  20. The Committee supports trials of the workplace parking levy and is anxious that legislation to allow this is put in place as soon as possible. Any such legislation should, however, recognise that in London, even after the creation of the Greater London Authority, introduction of a workplace parking levy will require the active co-operation of the London boroughs and should be recognised as a joint activity.

Congestion charging

  21. Congestion charging can play a similar role to the work place parking levy in discouraging car trips albeit without some of the disadvantages associated with releasing spare capacity which can result in further generated traffic. It is, however, a more complex issue with, potentially, more technical problems, and there are a wider range of possible workable options to consider. Again the Committee welcomes the prospect of trials and is anxious that legislation allowing local authorities to introduce congestion charging should be introduced as soon as possible. The Committee supports the work of GoL in considering options as a form of briefing for the mayor.

  22. Central to the success of any form of congestion charging is enforcement. The experience of the London boroughs with parking enforcement demonstrates that they are fully capable of this sort of enforcement and it is clear that a form of decriminalised enforcement would be most appropriate for this.

  23. As with the workplace parking levy, any such scheme in London should recognise that the active support of the boroughs is needed, even though it is likely that any workable scheme will have to cover a wider area than any one borough, for example central or inner London, and will need the GLA to take the initiative.

  24. It is critical, for both the workplace parking levy and congestion charging that all the proceeds, over and above operating costs, are hypothecated for spending on transport issues in London, either by the GLA or by the boroughs. This is the equivalent to the hypothecation of parking account surpluses under s.55 of the 1984 Road Traffic Regulation Act. Such hypothecation provides a clear demonstration that any such income is not being raised as a form of "back door taxation". A further protection of this sort, again equivalent to parking charges and penalties, would be to require that, in setting the workplace parking levy or the congestion charges, the relevant authority should take into account only transport matters, such as the need to reduce traffic levels, with the amount of revenue raised not relevant.

Transport for People with Mobility Handicaps

  25. The Committee fully supports the White Paper's commitments to improving travel opportunities and access for people with mobility handicaps. This includes not just those conventionally labelled as "the disabled" but may also include people with lesser sight or walking difficulties and can include those, such as mothers with young children or people with heavy and cumbersome loads, who have difficulty in using conventional public transports.

  26. The Committee is fully involved in supporting such initiatives at present. It supports the London concessionary fares scheme for elderly and disabled people which is amongst the most generous in the country, providing free travel on bus, tube and train outside the morning peak. It organises the Taxicard scheme which provides subsidised taxi journeys for those with disabilities.

  27. More recently, the Committee has established a Commission on Accessible Transport which is considering ways of using resources available in this field more effectively to give better services to those with disabilities. The Commission is considering the benefits and practicalities of co-ordinating transport provision for people with disabilities on an inter-agency basis, including transport provided by boroughs (as education and social service authorities) health authorities as well as purpose provided services such as dial-a-ride and Taxicard. Options being considered include the co-ordinated use of vehicles for multiple purposes, co-ordinated allocation of vehicles and co-ordinated procurement of transport services.

  28. This Commission, which is expected to report early in the New Year, is likely to lead on to certain pilot schemes for co-ordinating resources and transport supply. This may include, for example, co-ordination between Taxicard and dial-a-ride and elements of single demand centres.


  29. The Committee is responsible for the London night time and weekend lorry ban, which all boroughs are supporting. This ban provides substantial environmental benefits for Londoners, particularly those living alongside major roads, and the principle of the ban is now supported by the major freight organisations. It is very much in line with the proposals for lorry control set out in the White Paper.

  30. The Committee is looking at improvements to the ban, such as modernisation of the excluded route network and conditions associated with permits to enable it to respond more closely to the legitimate needs of the haulage industry without reducing its environmental benefits.

  31. The White Paper promotes the concept of quality partnerships in freight whereby local authorities, freight operators and others, work together to produce more effective mechanisms for transport and delivering freight while reducing the impact of freight on local communities. The Committee sees the night time and weekend lorry ban as, potentially, the centre of such a freight quality partnership in London.

December 1998

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries

© Parliamentary copyright 1999
Prepared 22 February 1999