Select Committee on Transport Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Association of London Government


  1.  This paper sets out the evidence by the Association of London (ALG) on behalf of London boroughs.[2] The ALG is a representative body of the 33 London local authorities. It's Transport and Environment Committee (TEC) is the statutory joint committee[3] responsible, among other things, for setting decriminalised parking penalties in London and operating the Parking and Traffic Appeals Service (PATAS). It also operates the TRACE service which provides telephone information on cars which have been legally removed from London's streets (see Appendix 1).

  2.  The ALG's view is that parking needs to be controlled to reduce congestion, improve safety and manage kerb space where demand for parking exceeds supply by, for example, prioritising residents', disabled drivers' or business servicing' needs. The ALG estimates[4] that about 50 million illegal parking acts take place each year in London. Many may seem small to perpetrators, yet they cause congestion, delaying buses in particular, and can cause additional casualties. Good parking regulations are needed to prevent this and such regulations are worthless if they are not enforced. Based on estimates from the Department for Transport, the ALG estimates that illegal parking in London costs in the order of £270 million[5] a year in terms of additional delays and accidents.

Are local authorities carrying out parking control reasonably? How is performance monitored?

  3. Overall the ALG considers London local authorities are carrying out parking control in a reasonable manner.[6] In the late 1980s, London boroughs lobbied to take over responsibility for parking enforcement from the police, who could not give it any priority. In many parts of London, there was parking anarchy and London boroughs wished to end that. Estimates in the early 1990s were that less than 1% of illegally parked cars received any form of penalty and about 50% of fixed penalty notices issued were not followed up.[7] With boroughs taking the lead, that has grown to an estimated 10% and where CCTV is used for enforcement, the percentage of contraventions being penalized is significantly higher (about 80% or in some cases higher). Where CCTV is used for enforcement there is a demonstrable and significant reduction in the number of contraventions.

  4.  There has been significant growth in parking enforcement activity in London since decriminalisation in 1994. PCN issue has increased from about 2 million a year to 6 million a year, as a result of: new and extended controlled parking zones (where lack of police enforcement had blocked extensions prior to 1995); operation of enforcement teams in the evening and weekends (evening and weekend restrictions were not enforced by traffic wardens); extension of decriminalisation to other contraventions, such as bus lanes; use of CCTV for enforcement and general increases in enforcement.

  5.  More effective enforcement has inevitably led to some complaints from those who previously were able to get away with illegal parking, whilst those who benefit from the enforcement (such as residents who can now park locally) rarely acknowledge that good enforcement makes this possible. At the same time, many of the complaints are really about the nature of the regulations, even when apparently simply about enforcement.

  6.  London boroughs look to ensure that parking enforcement is effective and fair. With the volume of enforcement activity as high as it, it is inevitable that some errors will occur. However consistent results from the parking adjudicators suggest that the London boroughs take the right action in 99.5% of cases.[8]

  7.  Unlike most law enforcement, elected councillors are directly responsible for the policies towards enforcement in their authority, although they do not get involved with decisions on individual parking penalties. In its own right, this provides better safeguards against excesses than might occur elsewhere. It also ensures that there is proper feedback from voters to the council on parking policies. This level of scrutiny and accountability is unmatched elsewhere in the enforcement systems in the UK.

  8.  Authorities also monitor public opinion. For example, in Camden, reviews of all the CPZs introduced in the last 10 years showed 19% considered there was too little enforcement, 60% about the right level and 21% too much. Croydon carries out yearly customer surveys to ascertain how the local community views their performance for on-street and off-street restrictions. Authorities also recognize that the need for controls needs to be monitored. In Hackney for example, newly implemented CPZs are the subject of public review after one year and then every three years. Hackney also uses surveys and Parking Forums to encourage feedback. The ALG's own survey of Londoners found that, in 2004, 25% of Londoners felt that parking enforcement was too strict, 29% felt it was too lenient and 45% felt that it was about right.

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

  9.  Common standards are important. ALG TEC's predecessor (Parking Committee for London) produced a Code of Practice on Parking Enforcement and a new version is currently out for consultation. The Code of Practice covers areas such as policies, procedures, priorities and notices and provides guidance on a range of issues.

  10.  Quality led contracts based on a new model contract based on a template by the British Parking Association should help ensure that parking and enforcement standards remain fair and reasonable. Such contracts should include a series of key performance indicators to measure the performance of the parking contractor.

  11.  On detailed issues, the ALG considers that there should be an expectation that all staff should be properly trained and appropriately qualified after an initial probationary period. The use of digital cameras to record the offence should also be encouraged as this gives documentary evidence in the event of a dispute. London boroughs have pioneered the use of CCTV for enforcement which provides photographs both on the PCN but also on websites.

  12.  While this advice is important, statutory guidance (being produced under the Traffic Management Act 2004), based on good practice, will help to ensure this advice is widely taken up.

  13.  One change which the ALG would strongly oppose is to give parking attendants discretion to cancel a penalty notice after it has been issued. There are a number of reasons for this. First it could increase the impact of aggression or corruption on parking attendants, as they could be forced to cancel penalty notices either by physical threats or the offer of money or other inducements.[9] Second it is more appropriate for any discussion over exemptions or mitigation to be dealt with at the town hall, where council officers with specific training can consider the case with more information and more consistency that could a parking attendant on the street. Similarly the ALG does not support the use of "grace periods" as disputes would merely shift to the end of the "grace" period.

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

  14.  The parking adjudicators constitute a statutory tribunal to consider appeals against parking penalties and were created under the Road Traffic Act 1991. Under the Act, the adjudicators are appointed by ALG Transport and Environment Committee (TEC), subject to confirmation by the Lord Chancellor. Whilst adjudicators are paid by ALG TEC, neither payment nor appointment rests in any way on the decision they make. This ensures that adjudicators are independent of the boroughs which have been responsible for the issue of notices.

  15.  A little less than 1% of PCNs result in an appeal to the adjudicators—a ratio that has remained broadly constant for 10 years. Between 55% and 60% of appeals are allowed by the adjudicators—again a percentage which is consistent over time. Arrangements for appeals have been set up with users' needs in mind. User surveys carries out by ALG (most recently in 2003) show that while satisfaction depends mainly on the result of the appeal, over 80% of appellants[10] are generally satisfied wit the quality of the process. The Leggatt review[11] of tribunals described PATAS as "the most user focused aspect of justice in the UK".

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

  16.  The ALG is strongly of the view that local authorities should retain the income generated from parking penalties. There is no other source of income for the management and enforcement of parking. Even were grant supplied for enforcement it would be difficult to negotiate a suitable level of grant to enable effective and accountable enforcement to take place.

  17.  Parking enforcement income, together with income from on street parking charges, must under current legislation[12] go into a separate parking account. The legislation requires that any surplus of income over expenditure can only be used by boroughs in limited circumstances:

    —  For the provision of further parking facilities, on or off street, within or without the borough boundaries; and where further expenditure is either unnecessary or undesirable.

    —  On pubic transport facilities, services or improvements.

    —  On highway improvements.

    —  On road maintenance.

    —  On scheme to support the transport strategy of the Mayor of London.

    —  On environmental improvements.

  18.  For 2003-04, London local authorities had a total income of at least £337 million.[13] Against this, operational costs accounted for about £194 million leaving an overall in-year surplus of £143 million. Of the £136 million of surpluses spent in 2003-04,[14] Boroughs used around £69 million (51%) to support concessionary fares, taxicard, community transport and other public transport and £56 million (41%) on highways and traffic (including maintenance, traffic management, parking provision and road safety).

  19.  Much of the cost of the Freedom Pass, which provides transport for London elderly and disabled residents, is funded from parking account surpluses. London's concessionary fares provision is much more generous that the national standard and will continue to be so after the introduction of free off peak bus travel for the elderly and disabled from April 2006. It is unlikely that the Freedom Pass scheme could be sustained in its present more generous form without support from parking surpluses.

  20.  The Golden Jubilee Foot Bridges (either side of Hungerford Railway Bridge) and parts of the London Cycling Network are other examples funded from parking surpluses.

  21.  Most but not all boroughs make some surplus on their parking accounts. However the main reason for this rests with parking charges rather than parking penalties. Authorities are advised that parking penalties should be set on a market basis, so that 85% occupancy is achieved. Many authorities charge less than this. Parking enforcement on its own is normally little more than self financing. Of the 25 London boroughs for which figures are available in relation to 2003-04, one made a deficit and only seven made a surplus of more than £5 million.

  22.  The objective of the decriminalised enforcement regime is to ensure compliance with parking regulations. The Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 sets out the only lawful objectives for making parking regulations. Both statute and case law[15] make it clear that any authority that based its enforcement policy on the objective of revenue raising would be acting unlawfully. Independent investigations from the London Assembly[16] and the former Chief Constable of Lincolnshire[17] have found no evidence to support such allegations of revenue raising that are made.

  23.  The ALG is therefore firmly of the view that London local authorities' parking and enforcement activity is not inappropriately influenced by the ability to retain fixed penalty income.

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

  24.  The ALG believes that it would be inappropriate, if not impossible, to set national criteria for determining the level of parking provision. The limited road space and lack of off street parking in many urban areas, particularly in Inner London, require a quite different approach to areas where there are fewer constraints on road space.

  25.  The Mayor Spatial Development Strategy[18] sets the policy for London. Policy 3C.22 begins by saying that the Mayor, in conjunction with boroughs, will seek to ensure that on-site car parking at new developments is the minimum necessary and that there is no over provision that could undermine the use of more sustainable non-car modes. The ALG supports this position as it is clearly untenable to encourage car use by the provision of car parking when London's roads are already having difficulty coping with current traffic levels.

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

  26.  Current parking policies in London aim to assist in the economic viability of local areas by controlling where vehicles park, for example enabling visitors to have priority over commuters and allocating limited kerbside space to allow servicing of business. The issue of parking policy and its impact on local economies across Europe has been examined in an EU sponsored programme.[19] This has found that while parking availability can be important, there is no relationship between parking costs and economic success.

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

  27.  Parking policy cannot be divorced from traffic and demand management. Parking controls can deter journeys to areas where there is limited parking and through traffic can also be managed by preventing parking for some or all of the day to ease traffic flows. It can and should regulate the available capacity where this is limited. The Mayor's Transport Strategy[20] proposed that London boroughs should submit a Parking and Enforcement Plan as an integral part of their Local Implementation Plan (which sets out how boroughs will meet the Mayor's Transport Strategy). This is now being taken forward.

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

  28.  The ALG recognises that controls on parking can be unpopular but the alternative of a free for all would be even more unacceptable. Much of media focus on parking is on the negative stories. However boroughs do try and communicate the rationale behind their parking and enforcement policies.


  29.  Overall London's parking enforcement regime provides an approach which reduces congestion and accidents and which regulates the use of the kerb space more effectively than its predecessor and does so at no net cost to the public. Any approach to increasing enforcement is bound to bring complaints from those who were able to get away with unlawful behaviour for their own benefit. Within that statutory approach to challenges to penalties, ending up with an independent adjudicator, provides a demonstrably robust system.

October 2005

2   When the term "borough" is used in this paper, it should be taken to include the Corporation of London. Back

3   As required in section 73 of the Road Traffic Act 1991. Back

4   On the basis of information supplied by boroughs. Back

5   This is based on figures produced by the Department of Transport updated to reflect inflation and increased traffic flow in London since the original report by the of the Working Party on Parking Enforcement (1989). Back

6   This is supported. For example, Richard Currie from the Association of International Couriers and Express Services said, on 20 September 2005, "We may not always agree with their decisions, but we've always been dealt with fairly by local authorities." Back

7   Report of the Home Office Working Party on Parking Enforcement (1989). Back

8   On the basis that about 0.5% of penalty charge notices result in a successful appeal to the adjudicator. Back

9   On average, three parking attendants are assaulted every day in London, as it stands. Back

10   Eighty-eight per cent of successful appellants are satisfied with the overall outcome while 25% of unsuccessful appellants are satisfied. Back

11   Tribunals for Users: one system one service: report of the Review of Tribunals by Sir Andrew Leggatt; March 2001. Back

12   Section 55 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. Back

13   Details in Appendix 2B (Figures based on returns from 25 of the 33 London authorities). Back

14   This figure is the actual figure spent and differs from the in year surplus because of surpluses and deficits carried between years. Back

15   Notably R v LB Camden, ex parte Cran and others 1997. Back

16   London Assembly review of parking enforcement, 2005. Back

17   British Parking Association 2005. Back

18   The London Plan, Spatial Development Strategy for Greater London: Greater London Authority: February 2004. Back

19   COST 342 (2005). Back

20   The Mayor's Transport Strategy: Greater London Authority: July 2001. Back

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