Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40
WEDNESDAY 7 DECEMBER 2005
Q40 Graham Stringer: Sorry, before
you go on any further, if they are cancelled I assume that they
are not then part of the 331/3% which are
Ms Witham: If I can expand on
it, there will be parking tickets which are cancelled.
Q41 Graham Stringer: Then they disappear
out of the calculation?
Ms Witham: Absolutely, yes. The
majority of tickets which are unpaid are normally as a result
of demographic features, if you have an area with a high population
movement. The shortest period that you can move a ticket from
being issued through to a bailiff warrant is four to five months.
If you have got a high population movement, there will be people
who no longer live at that address. The other reason why some
tickets are unpaid is because it is simply impossible to trace
ownership of vehicles. Those are the two major reasons.
Mr Kavanagh: I think it is between
5 and 10% of vehicles which are not registered with the DVLA at
all, so you therefore cannot find the drivers at any stage in
Mr Banbury: Could I add to that?
I did a little bit of research recently and spoke to a number
of local authorities and they say the average is about 10% are
uncollectible, in their view, because of the reasons mentioned.
Each authority has developed an offender database, a database
of persistent offenders, and recently we discussed the possibility
of making this into a national offender database, which in some
sense received quite a lot of support on the basis that people
move around the country, they do not necessarily have addresses,
they have cars which are not registered and therefore this is
about £30 million which is lost to local authorities each
year. So it is a significant sum of money and the view is that
if the general member of the public who gets a ticket pays, by
and large, it is not fair on those who pay not to try and collect
those who do not pay. Therefore, we are looking towards whether
or not this is a real possibility. We need to look at the technology
and we need to look at the practicality of doing it, but it is
something we are considering.
Q42 Graham Stringer: That is very
interesting. Could I just change the focus slightly? A number
of the witnesses have suggested there should be greater transparency
of what local authorities do. Do you believe there should be a
statutory responsibility to record and publish the number of penalty
charges, the number of representations made, the number of adjudications
and the number of times the adjudicator upholds the motorists'
Mr Banbury: Yes, I think there
needs to be, and part of the group which is looking at the statutory
guidance I think will come up with what will be required, and
we suggest it be a statutory requirement that there is a return
each year by each local authority along the lines you have said
to determine each of those particular issues and so that there
is total transparency, full disclosure of the facts. I think this
will help in trying to alleviate the concerns of some of the motorists.
Q43 Graham Stringer: Do you believe
that local authorities should be either collectively fined if
they look as though they are doing a bad job when the statistics
are analysed, where they are issuing a lot of parking tickets
which were incorrectly issued, and on an individual basis do you
think that if a motorist is put to a great deal of trouble by
the incompetent and unfair issuing of a ticket that motorist should
Mr Banbury: There is an ability,
as I understand it, for the adjudicator to award costs, but it
Q44 Graham Stringer: It is rare.
I am saying beyond costs, for the inconvenience and the annoyance?
Mr Banbury: On your first point,
I do not really think that is for us to say. I think this is a
decision through the statutory guidance as to whether or not people
should be fined, or if you have a parking regulator then that
individual would actually deal with that particular issue.
Mr Macnaughton: Could I just offer
an angle on the penalty to the local authority? I think linking
the performance of the local authority to the use, the application
of any surplus, would be very wise. So if it is a poor quality
enforcement regime, then certainly the authority could be restricted
in the application of any surplus. If it has a high quality enforcement
regime backed up by the performance data, then the public should
not be concerned about how any surplus is applied.
Q45 Graham Stringer: You originally
said that local authorities have to use the surplus for public
good, what came up in my mind was, what do local authorities do
which is not in the public good? Is this a meaningful phrase,
Mr Macnaughton: I think it is
defending the accusation that the whole industry for local authorities
is a money-making machine and I think there are very few authorities
which make a significant surplus and virtually none which make
a surplus which would be meaningful to their budget anyway, I
suspect. The point was made that applying the funds more visibly
would be a wise thing. So I do not think anyone is questioning
that they are not for the public good, but if they are being used
to balance a budgetary issue in the wider council then that might
be perceived as a problem.
Q46 Graham Stringer: Do you have
individually difficulties with the issue of clamping? Is it not
contradictory to good traffic management when a car is parked
in the wrong place to clamp it so that it is there for a good
deal longer than it otherwise would have been?
Mr Guest: I think perhaps we should
remember that the whole process of decriminalised parking enforcement
originates in the United States. In the original model in the
United States, clamping was used as part of a progressive approach
to enforcement where drivers were getting repeat parking fines
which they were not paying. Clamping was targeted against the
repeat offender, who was then required to clear the backlog of
fines in order to have the vehicle released. So it became part
of a progressive and logical enforcement process. When the 1991
Road Traffic Act was prepared that provision was not included,
so clamping is on the same par as a fine. You can have a fine,
be clamped or be towed; the law does not discriminate between
the three. Clearly, using clamping against a vehicle which is
obstructively parked would be a nonsense and potentially dangerous.
If a vehicle is parked on a meter and has overstayed the meter
then it is not obstructively parked and if there is a good reason
to clamp that vehicle, because you want to talk to the driver,
it is not necessarily a bad thing.
Mr Banbury: But I think the general
view of local councils is that they are moving away from clamping.
They are removing the vehicle for the very reason you have mentioned.
We do not have a problem as an association with regard to clamping
undertaken by local authorities, but we do have a problem with
clamping which is undertaken on private land and we have had quite
extensive discussions with the security industry authority, who
are now due to regulate this, because we do not feel they are
going far enough and we have expressed our concerns to the Home
Office and to the Home Secretary because we feel there need to
be greater controls for the public good, that this is really for
the public good.
Q47 Graham Stringer: Is meter-feeding
a problem and does that need greater national regulation and control?
Mr Guest: Meter-feeding is an
offence where the order controlling the parking place says it
is an offence. I am not aware that any local authority actively
enforces against meter-feeding.
Mr Macnaughton: Meter-feeding
does get enforced in places, but it is a minority activity. Westminster
Council recently very publicly announced that they would allow
meter-feeding, that it would not be enforced, and I think that
was good practice. It just cuts out the low-level comments that
regimes are excessive and harsh. Parking policies around stopping
people meter-feeding is trying to make sure that spaces are freed
up where on-street spaces are in short supply. Let us remember
why those policies were there in the first place. On-street spaces
are there for short-term, high turnover activities and people
blocking up those spaces by absorbing the maximum amount of time
they are allowed does cause other problems, so there is a balance
to that, but penalising people who put another five minutes on
the meter because they are not quite ready would seem extremely
Q48 Chairman: I want to ask you about
the definition of loading and unloading, which is a very fraught
subject. We have been asked by the freight industry for a clear
definition of loading and unloading. Would you expect that to
be in your guidance?
Mr Banbury: Yes.
Ms Witham: There is quite a clear
definition which arose from an adjudication decision back in 1995
and a lot of local authorities understand it and use it as guidance.
It is not statutory, it is purely guidance, and basically the
adjudicator recognised that activities such as delivering and
collecting small items as part of a delivery round are loading
and unloading, as are delivering and collecting bulky items.
Q49 Chairman: Why is it then that
particularly these express delivery people seem to be very sensitive
about it? I would have thought they would have known that if that
was the case.
Mr Macnaughton: One of the issues
with the express industry is that they have a little knowledge
about the rules, but they do not have a lot of knowledge.
Q50 Chairman: Surely you are not
telling us businessmen only have a little knowledge of the law?
Mr Macnaughton: If I can illustrate
it. Yes, clearly there is loading and unloading activity going
on, but that does not mean that allows them to unload on a double
yellow line by a set of traffic lights or on a white zigzag, and
if you actually analyse where a lot of those tickets they are
disputing are going on, they are actually not in a loading and
unloading area, they are actually going on in an area where there
is a clear contravention.
Q51 Chairman: So what would we do
to make sure the business community actually complied with existing
Ms Witham: I think it should be
in the statutory guidance and I think all local authorities should
be aware of it and they should make efforts to make sure that
the business community is aware of it.
Q52 Chairman: There does not seem
to be a lot of consistency across London, for example, does there?
Ms Witham: No, there is not, and
that is an area which is being addressed. It was part of the GLA
review, ensuring consistency across London, but I also think authorities
need to understand the needs of businesses to load and unload
and to make provision for that as well.
Q53 Mr Martlew: Just on the blue
badge scheme, not the abuse of the blue badge scheme, which we
all seem every day, but the actual design of it, there seems to
be confusion. Most of the people who have blue badges are elderly
and if they put it in the window the wrong way round they end
up with a ticket. Is that your experience, and if it is, could
we design it better?
Mr Banbury: Could we make the
point that I think we need a commonsense approach to that. If
it is the wrong way round, then there needs to be local guidance
to parking attendants, and one thing we have not spoken about
is parking attendants, which I think is a major area in itself.
They need to have guidance from the local authority of how they
deal with these situations.
Q54 Chairman: Can I ask you about
this, Mr Banbury, because it is all part of the same question
really, is it not? Somewhere like Westminster, where there is
an enormous turnover of staff and they are complaining that they
cannot keep people, is it a matter of terms and conditions, is
it a matter of training? Why is it not possible to keep the staff
to do these kinds of jobs?
Mr Banbury: From our point of
view, I think most of the contracts in the past have been, as
I have said earlier, about lowest price. Lowest price means you
pay low wages, you get low quality people and it is a cycle. What
we are trying to do is raise the whole profile by changing the
contract and also we have developed for the first time a national
qualification for parking attendants. We are talking to the DfT
about this becoming a requirement to practice, so that every parking
attendant wherever they are in the country will have gone through
the same course so that there is some consistency of approach.
They will then deal with issues locally in addition to that, but
I think that is important. The BPA is all about raising standards
within the industry of performance.
Q55 Chairman: You do not disagree
with that, Mr Macnaughton?
Mr Macnaughton: No, I do not.
Q56 Chairman: Do you have anything
Mr Macnaughton: I can add to the
issues on staff. I think you have to look at the nature of the
job. It is a very challenging job, it is a difficult job, and
there is the public's attitude to the job. We support all of the
initiatives to improve the perception of quality, because why
would we not? This makes a better job for our attendants. But
we do see a very strong correlation between the very aggressive
coverage of activity by the media and assaults on staff.
Q57 Chairman: Mr Macnaughton, if
you have come here to ask us to deal with the Press, you may have
the wrong committee! Mr Banbury, you did very briefly touch on
the fact that some local authorities have not kept their traffic
regulation orders in proper repair and that signage and other
aspects are not clear, so people are not always totally sure where
they are allowed to park or not. What do we do about that?
Mr Banbury: Well, we have to make
them keep them up to date and they have to review them annually
and the money should come out of any surplus they are generating.
Q58 Chairman: Do you have any figures?
How many local authorities are bad boys when it comes to keeping
their estates in order?
Mr Banbury: I could not have a
guess. I do not know. It is probably quite a number, but if as
part of statutory guidance they are required to do this annually
then at least we can start tackling the problems.
Q59 Chairman: Should the 50% discount
period for penalty charge notices be extended beyond the issuing
of the notice to the owner to give all motorists a fair chance?
Mr Banbury: I think the answer,
as I have already said, is that some of the local authorities
are doing it, and generally yes, providing it is not abused. That
is the concern which some of the local authorities have, that
this situation can be abused, and to an extent even down to statutory
declaration, that they just keep putting it off and putting it
off. So there is a balance to be struck, and again statutory guidance
needs to deal with that particular issue.
Councils can also re-offer the discount at any stage
of the process if they choose to do so. We believe that Statutory
Guidance should cover this matter and whether the discount should
normally be offered at a latter stage including where a driver
says they never received the PCN or after the NTO has been issued.
We would normally support the former but not the latter.
1 To clarify the situation regarding the discount
period: All Councils will re-offer the discount to those who write
in to them within the 14 days after the PCN has been issued (almost
all correspondence at this stage is received within these 14 days).
This ensures that a driver has not been disadvantaged by querying
the PCN. Back