Select Committee on Transport Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by British Parking Association


  1.  The British Parking Association (BPA) is pleased that the Committee is to inquire into the current effectiveness of parking provision and enforcement. The BPA has argued for some time that parking is part of any integrated transport strategy whether at national or local level. Parking is a means to an end, rather than an end in itself and every vehicle journey we make starts and ends with a parking activity. This paper responds to the inquiry, addresses the issue of decriminalised parking enforcement, raises concern about a lack of a national parking policy, expresses concerns about the DVLA database from a parking perspective and covers other related issues.

  2.  DPE, as a result of the Road Traffic Act 1991, which started in London in 1993, has been in operation now for the past 12 years. It is therefore timely to review the process for there has been no objective measurement of the success or failure of DPE since its inception. This omission needs addressing urgently. It is also important to undertake urgent work to understand and make known the link between road safety, the free flow of traffic and kerb space management and parking control. While it was and is, sensible to decriminalise these offences or contraventions and allow local authorities (LAs), powers to enforce local parking regulations (thus enabling the police to concentrate on fighting real crime), the public perception of parking management and enforcement is poor. While some criticism may be justified, the majority of people and for the majority of time benefit from the improved management of the scarce road space. Unfortunately much of the negative perception results from a media attitude that is both exaggerated and sensationalist in its approach. Nevertheless the BPA recognised some time ago that this portrayal reflected broad public concern and therefore developed a three part strategy to help understand and improve the situation. In particular the BPA has:

    (a)  Developed and introduced a new model form of contract for use by local authorities and service providers which reflects a modern partnering approach. It is founded on openness and trust and shuns performance indicators relating to the number of parking tickets (PCNs) issued.

    (b)  Established, with our partners City & Guilds, a Level 2 National Training Certificate for parking attendants (PAs), which we believe will become, over time, a "licence to practice" for all PAs, thereby improving the consistency of training of such individuals across the country, which will be good for the individual PA, good for the public and good for the industry.

    (c)  Commissioned Richard Childs, the former Chief Constable of Lincolnshire, to undertake an independent review of DPE and propose ways in which DPE could be improved. A copy of Richard's report containing a range of recommendations is attached in PDF form.

  3.  The Chief Executive of the BPA has been appointed to a DfT lead working group formed to develop new regulations and guidance on parking for local authorities, as a result of the Traffic Management Act 2004. We believe that the issue of new guidance represents an ideal opportunity to update LAs on further developments of DPE to ensure that it is applied correctly, fairly and in a consistent and transparent way. Many of the current concerns about DPE can and should be dealt with through the new regulations and better guidance notes. This is an opportunity that should not be missed and Richard Childs Report covers the range of issues that need to be addressed.

  4.  Parking management, regulations and enforcement are an essential public service, benefiting the whole community. There is apparent public concern about the way enforcement is undertaken in some areas and although the majority appears correctly applied, it is important to take the present opportunity to improve the effectiveness of DPE to ensure that our streets are safe and free from congestion for the benefit of all—the main objective of parking regulations and enforcement.


  5.  Our comments on the specific questions asked are:

    Are local authorities carrying out parking control reasonably, fairly and accountably? How is performance evaluated?

  6.  We believe that most LAs are carrying out parking control reasonably and fairly, and are accountable locally to their electorate. Performance is evaluated in a number of ways but too much emphasis has been placed in the past by some LAs on the number of tickets (PCNs) issued—often as it is the easiest indicator to measure. Tickets are a consequence of enforcement and it could be argued that if the overall number of tickets issued over time does not reduce (all other things being equal), then the parking management regime is not providing a fair and reasonable service. The better authorities measure the number and average duration of illegal parking acts (contraventions) and identify the continued reduction as a measure of success. It must be said, however, that the rate of reduction will slow as each incremental improvement (reduction in illegal parking) costs several times more than the previous increment and there will come a point when the cost is greater than the benefit.

  7.  There is a perception that many drivers (encouraged by media comment) see DPE solely as an income generator for LAs. To change this perception Richard Childs believes that greater emphasis should be given by LAs to the legitimacy of parking controls and enforcement (ie that it is undertaken for the right reasons—to control traffic, etc) and that it is carried out with greater transparency, so that the public can see what revenue is generated and how it is used. Consequently, he recommends and we support the view, that statutory guidance should be used to require full public disclosure by LAs.

  8.  The new BPA model contract recommends a whole series of performance indicators from which a local authority can choose those that best suit its particular needs. While it is understandable for budgetary purposes that the number of "expected" tickets should be estimated, LAs should not use this number as a performance measure and the practice of offering incentives to PAs and penalising service providers for not reaching expected numbers should be made unlawful. The BPA and others are currently working on developing a compliance formula which, when available, will help LAs judge the performance and effectiveness of a contractor or act as a benchmark from which an LA can judge its own performance over time. A similar formula is also being developed as a "back Office" Index, as an inefficient back office operation can have an effect on parking compliance.

    What action would raise the standard of parking enforcement activity? Is Statutory Guidance needed to promote consistency?

  9.  The Childs Review and other complementary studies have proposed ways in which the performance of DPE can be improved both strategically and operationally. The key however is the planned statutory guidance and good progress is being made by the DfT Working Group in developing this. It will be available for comment later in the year/early next year. The importance of such guidance cannot be understated especially if, as planned, it is backed by a Code of Practice for local authorities and other good practice guides. It is important, however, to recognise that those who park illegally are acting antisocially and whilst the work of parking provision, management and enforcement must be undertaken firmly and correctly, it needs to be carried out fairly so that those contravening the regulations understand the impact of their actions and accept any penalty imposed. They need to be treated fairly, promptly and in a consistent manner.

    Is the appeals process fair and effective? How could it be improved?

  10.  Yes, in broad terms we believe the appeals process to be fair and effective but it can always be improved. Dealing with aggrieved motorists, who feel they have been unfairly ticketed, through the decriminalised civil process is more sensible and user friendly than to do so through the criminal route and the magistrate's court. It is important that the first representation stage for an aggrieved motorist is through the local authority, which has the discretion to cancel a ticket. Where grievances are not resolved at this stage an appeal through the adjudication service is sensible and conforms to natural justice. However, there is growing concern that adjudicators appear too often to go beyond their remit and consider matters of mitigation rather than just considering the legal facts.

  11.  Concern had been expressed that not all LAs deal with representations as quickly and effectively as they might and again Richard Childs recommends that new Statutory Guidance cover the whole issue to ensure an improved service. It is essential that DPE is sufficiently flexible to deal fairly and quickly with those who have legitimate grounds for complaint but does not allow others to abuse the system or delay payment unreasonably—as is sometimes the case now. It is unfortunate that when the concept of decriminalised parking enforcement was brought over as a model from the USA, that the "Scoff" laws were not attached. The ability to enforce against a persistent evader wherever his or her vehicle is found would be a much greater deterrent to those who deliberately try to evade justice.

    Is it appropriate that local authorities should keep the revenue generated from parking fines? Is there any evidence that the opportunity to raise revenue through decriminalised parking enforcement has inappropriately influenced authorities' parking policy and enforcement activity?

  12.  The BPA believes it reasonable to allow local authorities to keep any surpluses generated from DPE activities for use locally as it is an incentive to run a cost effective regime. It is important, however, to ensure that LAs use the money first to maintain, review and improve lines and signs so that drivers have every opportunity of parking according to the rules and avoiding a ticket. While none of the recent studies has found "evidence" that LAs are manipulating the system to increase their earning capability, we recognise that this is the public perception. Existing guidance requires LAs, with DPE powers, to at least break even financially on parking overall, so the activity is not subsidised from other council funds. And the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 (as amended) requires any surpluses generated to be used for dedicated activities such as transportation issues and in some cases now, environmental matters. As an example, the London Freedom bus pass has, we understand, been funded from parking surpluses. The surplus income from DPE for all LAs is substancialsubstantial and the DfT can provide the committee with actual details. However, while a few generate a large surplus many do not. We do not object to surpluses being used for environmental issues but the first requirement of a LA should be to use the surplus to maintain and improve its parking facilities and services something we are concerned is not happening as much as it should.

  13.  Richard Childs did suggest that while he did not have any evidence to prove that LAs were manipulating DPE, it became clear to him during his study that some LAs were putting their parking managers under significant pressure to meet financial targets rather than improvements to traffic flow and safety. This needs to be addressed in Statutory Guidance although it is recognised that "challenging" targets can be dressed up in many ways.

  14.  As mentioned earlier many of the issues surrounding the income/surpluses of LAs and how they are used could easily be overcome by greater transparency by LAs. By giving full disclosure in their annual reports and on their websites on the number of tickets issued, the number cancelled, (including those for mitigating circumstances), the income and surpluses achieved and how the revenue is used, etc, a local authority could at a stroke redress much of the criticism, particularly that of the media. This issue is being picked up by the DfT Working Group but it is worth restating that any action to remove the current suspicion and change the perception about DPE must reinforce the legitimacy of parking control and the need for transparency in the way finances and other information is handled. In the end if no driver parked illegally there would be no need for enforcement and no income from parking fines.

  15.  Illegally Parked vehicles can be a potential danger to others or cause an obstruction to everyday traffic, or more importantly, to emergency vehicles. Parking illegally is anti-social and needs to be controlled through sensible parking policies, regulation and enforcement. Without such controls there would be chaos on our streets. It is for this reason that we see DPE as the way forward on-street and compliance needs to be improved through sensible enforcement and better public understanding.

    What criteria should be used to determine the level of parking provision that should be provided?

  16.  Insufficient attention has been given in the past to the role of parking in our transport policy and with some 30 million motor vehicles on our roads today, (most of which are parked at any one time), the need to manage and ration parking space, particularly on-street in urban areas, by time, cost and category of use, is both essential and self evident.

  17.  The level of parking provision is influenced by social, economic and political considerations. While it is clear that there is growing demand as a result of the number of vehicles on our streets increasing, the requirement for off-street parking associated with developments has been reduced by Government for a number of reasons including pressure for more dwellings. In some developments parking provision has been completely eliminated. With rising demand there needs to be a balanced approach between provision and expectation and between the needs of the varying groups of stakeholders, including those with a disability.

  18.  Research by the RAC Foundation has shown that:

    —  29% of people have given up their journey and gone home due to lack of parking.

    —  28% of people have searched for more than 20 minutes for a parking space at their intended destination.

    —  Only 41% of people actually use their garage for parking their car.

    —  56% of people would consider converting their garden to parking if they had no access to residential parking.

    —  14% of people have parked in a disabled space due to lack of other parking.

    —  More than ¾ of those approached think that parking problems should be addressed by more underground parking at home, when visiting shops and better public transport.

  19.  The more cars that are parked off-street, the safer the community. As a result the current Government guidance on spaces per unit should be reviewed as part of the development of a UK wide parking policy that is integrated within the national transport strategy (see later). Also, whilst the drive to convert more people to public transport is commendable, until the public sees a cost effective, on time, agreeable public transport system, many will continue to use their cars as their preferred choice.

  20.  As a result, more innovative solutions need to be considered by Government and others including increased parking provision at public transport interchanges, to allow part of a journey to be completed in future by car and not necessarily the whole of it.

  21.  It is inappropriate to try and review the whole issue of parking provision in such a response. We believe the Committee should study the report of the RAC Foundation entitled "Motoring towards 2050—Parking in Transport Policy", published in 2005, as it gives a valuable overview of some of the issues and some areas of research that should be considered. Parking is an under researched area of transport strategy and it needs a joined up Government approach to determine the way ahead, taking into account social and economic factors. Without it the issues of parking will continue to grow and become a further cause of much public anxiety and frustration.

    What are the wider impacts of current parking policy and illegally parked vehicles?

  22.  There is no comprehensive formal national parking policy which makes it impossible for the Industry to operate as effectively as it could and means that local decisions are not national policy driven. Local authorities develop their own parking plans (as required by Government), which are based on a range of factors locally and take into account the needs of residents, businesses, the disabled and all other stakeholders. There appears to be little if any co-ordination between adjoining local authorities yet the parking plan of one can have a major impact on the neighbouring areas—good or bad. Many of these "plans" are unknown to the public, are often confusing and difficult to understand, sometimes appear contradictory and lack consistency across the country. Motorists often feel frustrated and bemused between the standards of parking management between one local authority and another, which often results in aan unintentional parking contravention. The whole issue needs to be simplified and whilst we need a local solution for a local problem, greater guidance is required from Government in the setting of parameters.

    What role should parking policy play in parking management and demand management?

  23.  In order to determine how much parking space each category of road user/parker is allocated, transport policies need to determine the overall objectives for public transport and the possible carrying capacities, ease of access to all locations. Having determined this and the potential change in the patterns of movement based on economic and domestic activity, provision needs to be made for those who live in the area, have no public transport option and for the economic well being of the area. Unfortunately the demands will vary by hour of the day, day of the week, time of year as the demand patterns for a seaside town will be significantly different to a business district in the heart of a large city. Policy should therefore determine what the overall objectives are, and then be used as the reasoning behind the actual parking provision—location, category of user, charges, and finally the enforcement.

  24.  It is crucial however that policy is reviewed regularly, that variations in demand due to redevelopment, loss of commercial premises, changes in licensing and other regulations, are taken into account at a local level to ensure that the provision, whilst still in line with policy, maximises the available space for the changed demand as far as possible.

  25.  Parking policy also needs to consider the wider issue of public safety and security for those using parking facilities. The British Crime Survey suggests that 20% of all crime relates to vehicle crime and 20% of this on average is committed in car parks. Thus 4% of all crime is car park related. To redress this issue ACPO in partnership with the Home Office and BPA have developed the Safer Parking Scheme aimed at providing a safe and non threatening environment for users. While the scheme now incorporates some 2000 parking facilities, greater take up by the public sector is essential if the scheme is to grow and flourish. We believe that the committee should suggest to the appropriate government departments, such as ODPM/DfT/ Department of Health that they encourage greater take up of the Scheme by local authorities, health authorities, etc.

    How can public understanding and acceptance of the need for parking policy be achieved?

  26.  It is clear that there is a great deal of public confusion about parking policy, provision and enforcement. We all appear to support the need for parking control, for traffic management, and enforcement of the other driver who is being selfish. However, we generally consider that we should be exempt from the rules as "we" are not the problem, it is him or her! Whilst the consequences may not be as damaging or as costly as drink driving or not wearing a seat belt, illegal parking should be considered to be as selfish. Regrettably there are too many drivers who are also too selfish or too keen to flout the law, to register, maintain, insure or tax their vehicle—to the potential detriment of others.

  27.  The supposed lack of understanding leads to frustration, stress and a great deal of abuse of parking attendants on street. In order to improve public understanding and acceptance it is important, once the changes to the current DPE regime have been agreed and the new regulations and statutory guidance finalised, that a major public communications campaign is undertaken to make motorists and others more aware of the need for parking controls and enforcement and the potential detriment to others of their often selfish actions.

  28.  The British Parking Association is planning to develop a "consumer's guide to parking", to coincide with the publication of the new Statutory Guidance, in order to help public understanding of the issues. We hope that Government will support this initiative as part of a wide ranging public communications campaign.

  29.  There are two other major concerns we wish to share with the committee:


  30.  Traffic and parking regulations are given effect by traffic signs and markings. In the UK signs are prescribed precisely in Traffic Signs Regulations and General Direction TSRGD (SI 2002/3113) and if a sign or marking does not comply with TSRGD then the regulation has no effect. We believe that it is important that, particularly for parking, where drivers are expected to comply with regulations, that the precision of signing is preserved and enforced. Where a driver is at risk of a financial penalty, or worse, signs cannot be "about right".

  31.  However, understanding the present system does seem to cause many people a problem. DfT funded research indicates that many drivers do not understand existing signs. Incorrect use of signs and markings suggests that some professionals responsible for introducing and managing parking regulations also struggle to comprehend the present system.

  32.  Regardless of the lawfulness of the signing that is used it clearly is a cause for concern if a significant number of motorists, and some professionals, are unable to comprehend correctly the regulation that is in force. We believe that this issue should be addressed by an objective study of sign comprehensibility and, if the study shows there is a problem; sign design should be revisited and simplified, or driver education should be improved or both.


  33.  Parking Offences and increasingly moving traffic offences are enforced by first identifying the offending vehicle and then subsequently tracing the keeper/user. The inability to trace vehicles back to their user because of deficiencies in the vehicle registration process has a number of consequences.

    —  For Local Authorities many millions of pounds in income are foregone because offenders cannot be traced and large amounts of public money are wasted in trying to track down such vehicles.

    —  The exchequer also loses many millions of pounds from uncollected fixed penalty notices issued by Police forces, who also spend a great deal of abortive time and money in following up offences.

    —  Some of the worst offenders, often disqualified and driving without insurance and other documents flout the law with relative impunity because their vehicles are not registered and not traceable unless stopped on the street.

  34.  Inevitably the financial and social consequences of these activities are met by other law-abiding citizens. Although these issues are well known and widely understood particularly in the parking industry we are not aware that the true costs of the weaknesses in the current vehicle and driver records system on wider public finance and law and order have ever been subject to an independent evaluation. We recommend that the Audit Commission should be requested to carry out an investigation of the weaknesses of the present system and the wider financial consequences of these shortcomings.

  35.  Local authority parking services lose a large amount of income each year because foreign registered vehicles cannot be tracked to enforce a parking penalty and so the drivers sometimes do not pay for the parking that they use. This problem is in part caused by casual visitors who spend a few days or weeks visiting the UK and the scale of monies involved is such that entrepreneurs have set up companies to collect this money on a commission basis.

  36.  Of greater concern is the fear that there is a significant, and growing, number of vehicles carrying overseas registration marks which have been brought into the UK and are in long-term use by residents and visitors for far longer than the six months that are allowed without registering the vehicle here. Notwithstanding the offence of failure to comply with vehicle registration requirements there is also a concern about the wider legality of these vehicles.

  37.  Mainland Britain has about 25 places where motor vehicles can enter and leave the country (other than as cargo) and it should be relatively simple to establish a computer system which would log vehicles entering the country so that:

    —  Those staying beyond six months could be flagged so that if identified on street by the Police or parking officers they could be dealt with.

    —  Vehicles leaving the country could be checked for outstanding offences or charges and if appropriate given the opportunity to resolve any outstanding issues before leaving.

  38.  We believe this is an urgent problem that needs resolving.


  39.  Most people want to park freely where they like, when they like and for as long as they like. In a small island like ours this is not possible, particularly in built up areas, and thus we must manage the use of the highway for the benefit of all. The BPA believes therefore that DPE is the way forward so far as parking (and other minor traffic enforcement) is concerned, providing it is undertaken, fairly, legitimately and in a transparent way.

  40.  However, ultimately it must be to everyone's benefit to get as many cars off street as possible, to improve safety and avoid them causing an obstruction. Yet, the provision of space to park vehicles, especially commercial vehicles, is slowly reducing.

  41.  As a society we need a longer term parking strategy that is linked to the Government's overall transport policy that recognises concerns about supply and demand. This can only be undertaken by Government in consultation with all stakeholders.


  42.  The BPA recommends that the Transport Committee:

    —  Supports the preparation by DfT of new DPE parking regulations and guidance in accordance with the recommendations in the Childs report.

    —  Encourages Government to review of the effectiveness of DPE against the original criteria identified by the legislators.

    —  Encourages Government to review the whole issue of "signs and lines", to consider their comprehensibility and if necessary develop a new system that is easier for people to understand.

    —  Recommends to Government the development of a national parking framework as part of the integrated transport strategy.

    —  Recommends that the Audit Commission investigates the weaknesses of the current vehicle and driver records system to identify any shortcomings and the financial consequences to the public sector of this and recommend improvements.

    —  Invites the DfT to review the problems of parking contraventions for overseas registered vehicles and the issue of the non payment of parking and other fines.

    —  Parking policy also needs to consider the wider issues of public safety and security for those using parking facilities. The British Crime Survey suggests that 20% of all crime relates to vehicle crime and 2,054 of this on average is committed in car parks. Thus 4% of all crime is car park related. To redress this issue ACPO in partnership with the Home Office and BPA has developed the Safer Parking Scheme aimed at providing a safe non-threatening environment for users. While the scheme now incorporates some 2,000 parking facilities, greater take-up by the public sector is essential if the scheme is to grow and flourish. We believe that the committee should suggest to the appropriate government departments, such as ODPM/DfT/Department of Health that they encourage great take-up of the Safer Parking Scheme by local authorities, health authorities, etc.

previous page contents next page

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

© Parliamentary copyright 2006
Prepared 22 June 2006