Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1
WEDNESDAY 7 DECEMBER 2005
Chairman: Good afternoon, lady and gentlemen.
Thank you very much for coming this afternoon. You are most warmly
welcome. We have one little bit of housekeeping to perform before
we start to talk to you, if you will forgive us. Members having
an interest to declare. Mr Martlew?
Mr Martlew: Member of the Transport and
General Workers' Union and member of the GMB.
Graham Stringer: Member of Amicus.
Chairman: Gwyneth Dunwoody, a member
Mrs Ellman: Member of the Transport and
General Workers' Union.
Clive Efford: Member of the Transport
and General Workers' Union.
Q1 Chairman: Lady and gentlemen,
before I ask you to identify yourselves, perhaps we could start
at the left. Would you like to tell us who you are, just for the
Mr Banbury: Good afternoon. My
name is Keith Banbury. I am the Chief Executive of British Parking
Ms Witham: My name is Lynn Witham.
I am a member of the Executive Council of the British Parking
Mr Guest: My name is Peter Guest.
I am the Vice-President of the British Parking Association.
Mr Macnaughton: My name is Bob
Macnaughton. I am the Chief Executive of National Car Parks.
Mr Kavanagh: My name is Ian Kavanagh,
the On Street Director for National Car Parks.
Q2 Chairman: Thank you. Perhaps I
should warn you that sitting in front of you are microphones which
do not project your voices, they record what you say, so I am
afraid we are going to have to ask every one of you to speak up
because the acoustics in this building are not altogether fitted
to some of their modern tasks. Did any one of you have anything
you wanted to say just before we begin the questioning? In which
case, let me ask you, should decriminalised parking enforcement
be rolled out across all local authorities?
Mr Banbury: I think there is an
argument to do that. At the moment, because there are two systems
in operation there is some confusion in the members of the public
and that would be a good reason, in a sense, to roll it out across
the country, but there are other reasons. Because decriminalised
parking enforcement is meant to be self-funding it may well be
that some councils are unable to undertake that. Therefore, that
may be the main reason against it, but I think it is something
which should be considered.
Q3 Chairman: Have you any reason
other than an instinct to believe that that would be the case?
Are you just assuming there is a certain population requirement
before such a scheme would be self-financing? Is that your assumption?
Mr Banbury: That is correct. Because
they have the opportunity to do it at the moment, although only
170 or so have done so, it could well be that those who have considered
it have turned it away because of that. I know that in some cases
it is being undertaken on a county-wide basis so that the areas
where they actually generate a surplus can actually support those
areas where they do not.
Q4 Chairman: Since the change on
parking enforcement has been introduced, the number of reported
parking contraventions has increased. Do you think we ought to
be concerned about that?
Mr Banbury: Not particularly.
I think the reason why it has increased is because the enforcement
is much more rigorous than it used to be and through the police
system where there are traffic wardens, of course there are very
few of them around and therefore enforcement is fairly sparse.
At the moment, just to put it in some sort of context, there are
about 8 million parking tickets issued through decriminalised
parking enforcement each year and there are something like 32
million drivers, so one in four of us gets one ticket a year,
or each of us gets one ticket on average every four years.
Q5 Chairman: You could be said to
have a vested interest in rolling out this legislation across
all local authorities. Do you have a particular view?
Mr Macnaughton: This is why I
was keen to let Keith make the first point.
Q6 Chairman: I gathered that, that
is why I am asking you.
Mr Macnaughton: I think for the
case of consistency, absolutely there is a case for decriminalised
parking enforcement to be rolled out everywhere. I think there
are issues where parking enforcement is the responsibility of
the police. It is not their priority, and it is increasingly not
their priority. So the resources which are invested in the traffic
warden service are increasingly diverted elsewhere, and that is
a problem. As a consequence, we see where we take on decriminalised
parking for the first time that quite often it is extremely welcomed.
I would point to St Albans just in the last 18 months or so, where
it was in the national media, "It's a scandal. There's no
parking enforcement. People are parking everywhere." So I
do think there is a strong case for it, but I also recognise the
priority should be in the denser populated areas, the urban areas,
where there is more congestion.
Q7 Mr Martlew: Just on that point,
in Cumbria we got rid of all the traffic wardens and to be honest
when they brought in the new system everybody was not pleased.
I am glad to see they are in St Albans, but they were not in my
constituency. Coming back to traffic wardens, are they disappearing
throughout the country, or is Cumbria just an exception? Are there
less and less of them and there is no control?
Mr Banbury: I think as more and
more move to decriminalised parking enforcement there will be
less and less traffic wardens and I think there is a conscious
effort by the Police not to actually undertake this function as
much as they used to, because they have other higher priorities.
So as a result, in some areas there is very little enforcement
and as a result people park obviously anywhere they wish to.
Mr Macnaughton: I think the question
is as much one for the Police Service. We do see that less resources
are being put into this area. It is not their priority. They have
a very big agenda of things to do and I do not think it comes
very high up that list.
Q8 Chairman: Mr Banbury, do you think
statutory guidance with a Code of Practice really will raise the
standard of parking enforcement?
Mr Banbury: I think so. There
have been concerns and we as an association have done a number
of things to try and improve the situation, but it needs to go
further. We actually introducedand I sent a copy througha
review undertaken by Richard Charles, who is the ex-Chief Constable
in Lincolnshire and he undertook an independent review and came
up with 43 recommendations which he passed through to the DfT.
We definitely believe there are improvements which can be made.
Decriminalised parking enforcement in itself is, I think, a very
sensible way to go. It is a parking ticket, it is a parking penalty
and to decriminalise it makes eminent sense. It is a much more
user-friendly system than going through a magistrates' court.
Chairman: I think we will want to ask
you a bit about that.
Q9 Clive Efford: Can I ask the representatives
from the BPA, do you support the adjudicator's call for Audit
Commission scrutiny of all local authority parking enforcement?
Mr Banbury: I do not think we
actually directly supported it, but we do support the review of
that. There is also a cause, and I think the Which? magazine
and others have suggested the possibility of a parking regulator.
That is something we feel the Government should consider as a
longer term possibility.
Q10 Clive Efford: What areas would
a parking regulator look into in terms of the practices of local
authorities in enforcement?
Mr Banbury: Exactly that, the
practice of the local authorities. He would not get involved in
the actual issue of tickets. There is an adjudication service,
which is generally sound. He would get involved with local authorities
to ensure they undertake their roles correctly.
Mr Guest: You said the number
of tickets issued was rising, but then so are the kilometres of
kerb space controlled and the hours of control. So it may not
be that the actual number of tickets per space, per hour is rising.
Q11 Chairman: Can we quantify that?
Mr Guest: No, we cannot. It is
one of our major concerns that there is very little hard data
around on what has happened since decriminalised parking in terms
of driver behaviour, the amount of parking and the amount of enforcement,
and it is one of our recommendations that there does need to be
some quite fundamental research in the field to understand what
has happened with decriminalised parking enforcement.
Q12 Clive Efford: On the issue of
Mr Guest: Yes, the scrutiny of
local authorities. We believe that most local authorities most
of the time are doing the job quite well, or well. We recognise
that some local authorities some of the time are doing the job
quite badly. At the moment we have a local authority activity
which is of the order of £1 billion per year in terms of
turnover where there is no scrutiny, there is no control, there
are no standards and there is no back-stop except by going for
judicial review or similar methods. There is nobody to say whether
it is being done rightly or wrongly and telling local authorities
where they are doing things wrong that they should mend their
ways. It is not something which the BPA has looked at and it is
not something which the BPA has formed a view on, but there was
a report recently done by Which? which made this recommendation.
Q13 Chairman: I would have thought
you were the logical forum to do that. You have this wide cross-sample
of membership. I would have thought that was the sort of thing
you would have been looking at?
Mr Guest: Yes, we carried out
the DPE research. It is not something which came up as a result
of that independent research, but it has come up in the dialogue
which has come out of that research and other research. It is
an idea which we feel has merits.
Q14 Chairman: You have put that to
the Department for Transport, have you?
Mr Guest: We have a meeting with
the Department for Transport in a week's time where it will be
on the agenda.
Mr Banbury: Could I add to the
point about statutory guidance? I think we are great supporters
of this. I think this is the key for the future. There is no doubt
there have been some concerns about decriminalised parking enforcement,
a lot of which has been media-hyped, I have to say. Nevertheless,
there are things which need to be changed and this is the mechanism
through which I think they need to be changed, backed by a Code
of Practice and with good practice guides. I think perhaps in
a year's time the whole issue of the DPE and the issue of tickets
will to some extent start to be resolved.
Q15 Mr Martlew: You say there are
things that need to be changed. Can you give us an example?
Mr Banbury: One of the things
which needs to be looked at is the question of proportionality
of charges. At the moment you get the same fixed penalty if you
overstay on a meter or if you are on double yellow lines. Now,
in natural justice there is an argument for saying there should
be a differentiation of charges. So that is one of the issues
which the group, of which I am a member, which is actually standing
and sitting at the moment, is to look at, but all of the other
issues as well related to it. So the whole focus perhaps will
change in the future. We need to do better in the sense of the
way in which we implement it. We need to have stronger rules and
we need greater transparency. The two key issues which Richard
Charles came to us with was legitimacywe must do it for
the right reasonsand transparency so that local authorities
could show to their constituents and the motorists what number
of tickets they have had, how they spent the money and what they
have used it on.
Q16 Clive Efford: In your evidence
you have indicated that parking managers are under pressure to
raise target revenue from parking enforcement. How under the statutory
guidance can we address that and what steps would relieve the
pressure on those parking managers to do that?
Mr Banbury: This was, I think,
an issue which Richard Charles brought to us. Two things we have
done which I think will help. The first is that we have developed
a new model contract, which I think Bob could comment on in a
minute. A local authority contracts with a service provider to
undertake their functions. In the past the contracts which were
under cctv were very much ticket-orientated. It is not unreasonable
to develop an expected number of tickets, but what was unreasonable,
we think, is that there was a penalty clause so that the contractors'
had a huge penalty if they did not meet those numbers of tickets.
I argue that with parking a ticket is a consequence of what happens
rather than a target, so our new contracts focus on different
forms of KPIs for compliance with the regulations rather than
on the number of tickets. We have to get the number of tickets
out of the equation, and that is already happening. A number of
local authorities, including Westminster (who you will hear from
later), are actually moving in that direction and I think what
we are doing is kicking at an open door. But we do need to move
on that because I think that is one of the biggest concerns of
the public and people like the AA and RAC.
Q17 Clive Efford: Particularly in
places like London, are not the amounts of money which can be
raised from parking enforcement too attractive at times for parking
enforcement managers to raise income, and is not the possibility
of using that money for other things other than traffic management
issues an inducement to try and raise revenue?
Mr Guest: I think it is important
that we understand and recognise that the powers the local authority
has to operate, manage and enforce parking are traffic management
powers; they are not fiscal powers. It is a natural consequence
of what happens, particularly in large cities, that there is a
financial surplus which comes out of those activities. We are
concerned that sometimes local authorities seem to have lost sight
of the fundamental reason why they are doing what they are doing,
so the money does become attractive and it does become an issue.
One of the recommendations we have made to ensure that what is
going on is understood and is transparent is that the financial
consequences of what the local authority should do should be very
transparent, that there should be a statutory responsibility to
publish the information about the money they are raising, how
they are spending that money, what they are doing with it, and
it certainly is appropriate that any surpluses should be used
to the public good. It is a statutory requirement for money which
comes from on-street parking that surpluses are ring-fenced and
used for the public good. One of the concerns we have in the industry
is that originally the primary purpose of a surplus was that it
should be reinvested into providing more and better parking. In
fact, the parking infrastructure which we have in terms of parking
structures, signs and lines, are being neglected, are falling
into disrepair while the money is spent on other things, and that
is a matter of great concern to us as an industry. We had the
experience a few years ago where one of Mr Macnaughton's car parks
partially collapsed at Piper's Row. The professions did a great
deal of research into that. There was a great deal of forensic
research into that. Out of that research came recommendations
from the professional institutions about checking, maintaining
and preparing a whole life care plan for all car parks. As far
as we are able to determine, that has not happened and we know
there are structures out there which are becoming dangerous. Most
of those structures belong to local authorities and they are not
reinvesting their parking surpluses into the maintenance and upkeep
of those structures, which we think should be a very high priority.
Q18 Mrs Ellman: How are the car parking
charges and meter charges set? Who does that?
Mr Guest: I will try and respond
to that. You may gather from my hair I am quite old now!
Q19 Chairman: We thought that was
only since you had been in this room"
Mr Guest: I suspect it will be
by the time I leave this room! The original parking charge was
set by the Greater London Council, which decided there should
be a charge of one shilling per day to park on the streets of
London. Since then, charges have been set by committees all the
way across the country, I am tempted to say at random but I do
not think that is true, in response to local circumstances. Local
authorities have total discretion on setting their meter charges
and their car park charges. They look at their local conditions,
at the cost of running their parking operations, they look at
the competition from Mr Macnaughton and others, and they set those
charges, but there is no rigid framework which they have to comply