Examination of witnesses
(Questions 420 - 439)
WEDNESDAY 9 DECEMBER
TURNER and MR
420. Do these priorities go right across
(Mr Turner) They go across borough boundaries
on the red routes.
421. Only on the red routes? Is it on the
red routes consistent? That is what I am asking? Is there consistency
(Mr Turner) Well, that is the purpose of the service-level
agreement, to try and ensure that for those priority areas consistent
enforcement is being achieved. In terms of the red lines, we believe
the police are meeting their targets, which is that for the high
priority areas of enforcement, a maximum of 1.2 observed offences
per mile are seen, and I am reading from pageraph 16.
422. It is page 16 of the evidence, headed
"Enforcement" and it comes under paragraph 5.2.
(Mr Turner) Where the police are not meeting their
targets currently, which we are talking to them about, is the
compliance rate which is being achieved on the parking and loading
boxes where we have designed them so that legal parking and legal
loading can take place and if it is time-limited, shall we say,
to 20 minutes, the police are not currently getting the level
of compliance to that 20-minute stay, so, in other words, they
are allowing people to stay longer than the allocated time, but
on the red lines the achievement of targets is actually being
423. It is the inconsistencies that worry
me, not just on the red routes, but elsewhere and that because
of that, do you not think it is overdue that instead of small
boroughs operating where people earn a bonus to issue parking
tickets, we should have a situation where there is a level playing
field and that every one of the authorities are taken out of the
equation and that what we do is introduce a traffic police that
has that as an all-embracing responsibility?
(Mr Turner) There are a number of points in there.
The consistency argument, I believe, is very important because
I have devised a broadly consistent engineering system for the
red route network and I would like it to be consistently enforced
in terms of the priorities that I believe are necessary, as I
set out in the memorandum. Currently deployment of the police
traffic wardens is carried out locally. The police are reconsidering
this and I believe there is the likelihood that they will be deployed
more from a central, single point which I think should improve
consistency. The question of consistency between borough enforcement
and the decriminalised regime is really a matter for Mr Lester.
(Mr Lester) If I can come on to that, the question
of deployment of borough parking attendants is a matter for individual
boroughs and there is legitimately going to be a wide variation
of the level of activity that takes place in any part of the road
network depending on the pressure both of illegal parking and
of legal parking on that network.
Mr Donohoe: Do you
think it is reasonable that if somebody has paid for 40 minutes
and is two minutes late they should be fined £30?
Chairman: We do not
want to get hooked too much on specifics, Mr Donohoe.
424. It does concentrate the mind if you
do such a thing.
(Mr Lester) What I would say is that the question
of when people get enforced is a matter as much as anything else
as when that particular patrol comes round. Not every street is
patrolled every five minutes, indeed very few streets are patrolled
every five minutes, but when they are patrolled, parking attendants
are under instruction that every offence is penalised. It can
then be considered back at the town hall if there is a mitigating
circumstance or if there is a reason why that ticket should not
have been issued, and I think it is very important that the parking
attendants do not have discretion. We do not expect that they
are the people who decide what regulations should apply and where,
but it should be accountable through the local authority what
regulations apply and where.
425. But do you not think it should be regulated
across the whole of an area, not just in a particular borough?
(Mr Lester) Each road will vary, and it is not
a question of borough by borough, but every road will vary. The
degree of enforcement you need on a residential road where the
only contravention is of the footway parking ban is clearly much
less than the degree of enforcement that you need on a much busier
shopping street where you have to make allowance for the deliveries,
short-stay parking and often where no parking is allowed because
of traffic flow reasons, and that must be decided street by street,
426. Could I seek further clarification
on this very important issue of decriminalisation, enforcement
and so on by asking what I hope is a straightforward question.
Do you feel, both of you, Mr Lester and Mr Turner, that given
what has happened since the implementation of the 1991 Road Traffic
Act, which you have particularly been involved in, there is a
case for transferring all of this type of responsibility away
from the police to local authorities?
(Mr Lester) Well, I would clearly say that the
evidence of the operation of the 1991 Act has resulted in a clear
improvement in three particular ways. The first is that there
is a considerable improvement in the level of compliance with
regulations. We have got data from compliance surveys, which,
admittedly, are difficult and expensive to get, which show that
overall in every category there has been an improvement in compliance
with the parking regulations and a reduction in the amount of
illegal parking where parking is prohibited.
427. You say it is almost double.
(Mr Lester) Double the level of activity.
428. Double the extent of that achieved
by the Metropolitan Police?
(Mr Lester) That is right, and in the last full
year of operation by the Metropolitan Police, 1.9 million parking
tickets were issued, and last year 3.7 million parking tickets
were issued by the local authorities.
429. Why do you think that was? Tell me
why that was.
(Mr Lester) Because there is a dedicated force
used solely for parking enforcement and because they have very
little discretion on the street. I would add in response to one
point that Mr Donohoe made earlier on that no parking attendant
is on commission. No parking attendant is on commission.
(Mr Turner) Could I just comment on that as well
please? I think it is a complicated issue between whether it is
a criminal offence or a decriminalised offence. I think what is
important, as Mr Donohoe was alluding to, is consistency on the
strategic road network because the strategic road network is going
to become the responsibility of the Mayor and it is going to be
the Mayor's roads, so I think consistency of enforcement, as it
has been designed as a consistent network, needs to be established
under a decriminalised or a criminalised system. I think it should
also be recognised that the intention that remains is to achieve
compliance with the regulations, so a measurement of the number
of tickets which have been issued on the strategic road network
is not what it is about. There is a slight difference there because
paid for parking at meters is almost all on the local road network
where the issuing of the charge notices is a legitimate activity
for the local authority and there is a legitimate aim to retain
430. Can I take it that your responses indicate
that you do think there is a case here? After all, the transfer
of responsibilities and the decriminalisations that have taken
place since 1991 have led to this dedicated activity that you
refer to and it is not only the decriminalisation but, in addition,
the transfer of enforcement responsibilities that has made this
work better. Is there a problem in your opinion between this decriminalised
local enforcement responsibility by the boroughs and the red routes
which are still subject to a criminal approach to this?
(Mr Lester) I do not think there needs to be.
One of the important lessons I think we have learned from the
1991 Act is the importance of the accountability and a bringing
together of the regulation making and the enforcement and the
accountability through elected representatives. I think in the
future as the Mayor becomes responsible for the strategic road
network that accountability will become more built in and therefore
the two systems will be able to work harmoniously hand in hand.
431. Who gets the money from the fines?
(Mr Lester) The money goes to the boroughs, but
it is hypothecated and has been since 1958.
432. To what?
(Mr Lester) It is initially spent on providing
further parking facilities and if expenditure there is either
unnecessary or undesirable it is limited either to public transport
services and facilities or to highway improvements and nothing
433. That is almost exactly what the Secretary
of State is saying.
(Mr Lester) We find that that is an extremely
important hypothecation and it makes the scheme far more acceptable
and demonstrates it is not a back door tax.
(Mr Turner) The fines go to the Exchequer. I have
long supported the need to look at the possibility of an administrative
charge at least to support the traffic wardens in their activities
so that there is some way of actually recognising that they are
carrying out an activity without any self-funding element associated
434. Mr Turner, you have been talking about
the people who have been booked on the basis of going into red
lanes or the parking tickets that are issued. What is the level
of enforcement of the fines thereafter?
(Mr Turner) I can deal with the bus lane cameras
issue as I have got information on that. The question of the follow-up
rate associated with the police activity I think you should address
to the police. I have not got any records associated with that.
435. Are you satisfied that the police give
the follow-up activities sufficient priority?
(Mr Turner) I think there is always room for improvement,
but I am confident from the work that we have seen on their follow-up
activity rate associated with the bus lane cameras that they are
pursuing the bus lane camera offences fairly vigorously. Fifty
per cent of the total number of offences that we are viewing on
the cameras result in notices of intended prosecutions being issued.
Out of these 93 per cent result in a conditional offer of fixed
penalty. The result of that is that 2.5 per cent of the original
100 per cent actually result in court appearances. So we can trace
through and I would be happy to provide a note to show the break
down of that.
436. So you feel enforcement is pretty effective.
What about parking tickets?
(Mr Lester) I can certainly give similar information
for penalty charge notices. The biggest problem that we have,
and I suspect that this is disguised in Mr Turner's 50 per cent
who do not get a notice of intended prosecution, is to do with
the number of penalty charge notices issued where no keeper can
be identified which is between ten and 15 per cent either because
the information held by the DVLA is inadequate or in a much smaller
number of cases it is foreign vehicles where we have no access
to other European databases which would be extremely helpful to
us. That means that although the penalty charge notice is put
on the windscreen or handed to the driver, something like 19 per
cent are left over plainly because of that big chunk that DVLA
cannot identify. We write off about five per cent and the rest
are either paid for at one stage or another or formally cancelled
either because mitigating circumstances intervene or because the
437. On the question of foreign cars or
perhaps recalcitrant car owners, is there a system to ensure that
even if you cannot trace the actual owner, if you pick up that
car ten times or it receives notices ten times you can then impound
(Mr Lester) Increasingly the London boroughs are
towing away vehicles where they are persistent evaders, they have
a number of tickets that are outstanding, principally at present
to get the name of a keeper for that vehicle. We do have legislation
on the books which would allow all parking penalties to have to
be paid before the car is released. We are currently awaiting
regulations from the DETR for that. There is the problem of ensuring
fairness in terms of considering any challenges to those ten or
however many tickets there are outstanding by the adjudicator
that needs to be resolved before we can be confident we can operate
that system fairly.
438. That would apply to foreign vehicles
as well as UK vehicles?
(Mr Lester) That would apply to any vehicles.
Currently it is an unfortunate feature that foreign registered
vehicles may in certain circumstances be more likely to be clamped
or removed because it is the only way of enforcing the penalty.
It is unfortunate. It is not something we would like to have.
If we had access to the vehicle keeper databases in, say, France
and Belgium, Holland and Germany, which are the main visitors
to London, so that we could enforce the debts through those keepers
then that would not be so likely to happen.
439. How important is it for bus priority
schemes to be implemented more widely, and how effective are they
in generating benefits?
(Mr Turner) I think it is absolutely essential
that we introduce bus priority schemes as widely as possible because
the nature of our road system is such that the buses are always
going to be subject to delay or disruption without them and it
is well established that people are dissuaded from using the buses
not so much because of the journey time but the unreliability
of their journey time and the uncertainty of whether or not the
bus is going to come along.