Memorandum by the Local Government Association
1. The Local Government Association represents
local authorities in England and Wales responsible for local policy
on and enforcement of regulated on and off street parking. The
Association's improvement agenda promotes high standards of management
in all local government activities and essential freedoms for
authorities to allow them to implement polices which are most
suited to local circumstances.
2. There are many and growing pressures
on limited road space and different categories of road user compete
for their share of this space, both to move and to park. Especially
in historic towns and cities where there are limited opportunities
to make alterations to their physical character, these pressures
may require relatively drastic and innovative measures to be tried
in order to make the most efficient and effective use of the space
available, whilst at the same time maintaining the local environment
and economy. Similar situations can arise in scenic rural tourist
3. The former local authority associations
sought the provisions contained in the Road Traffic Act 1991,
which implemented decriminalised parking enforcement across London
and allowed a similar procedure to be adopted by traffic authorities
outside London upon application and approval. The key element
of civil enforcement is that there are no longer fines as such,
although the media and others continue to refer to them as such,
but penalty charges which are retained locally for funding the
enforcement system and with any surpluses being reserved for related
transport investment. This change followed from concerns in the
1980s that police resources dedicated to parking enforcement and
traffic management in general were declining and that in some
areas essential additional parking regulations might not be enforced
effectively. A more direct relationship between the authority
making the traffic regulation orders and subsequently their enforcement
was felt likely to be more effective. The growing pressures on
police priorities seem to have upheld the wisdom of those moves.
The guidance on management of the Act's provisions outside London
is set out in the statutory guidance published by the former DoT
in 1995 "Guidance on Decriminalised Parking Enforcement
Outside LondonCircular 1/95". The Transport Committee
will have been aware when calling this inquiry that the DfT currently
is chairing a working party on parking enforcement, including
participation by the adjudicators, with a view to updating the
statutory parking enforcement guidance, especially in the light
of the provisions contained in the Traffic Management Act 2004.
4. When the Committee makes reference to
public concerns over enforcement activities it should be aware
of the clear distinction between local authority on-street and
regulated off-street car parking enforcement activities and those
of private enforcement companies operating on private land, and
which are in no way connected with local traffic authorities'
statutory duties and for which they receive no income.
5. Parking enforcement can be a very visible
"outside my front door" activity and the Transport Committee
will be well aware that any perceived unfairness can very quickly
be reflected in local democratic processes. Campaigns both for
and against the extension of residents' parking schemes, and their
enforcement, can be vociferous. The 1991 Act civil enforcement
provisions include the independent adjudication service which
has built up and maintained an independent role at least as strong
as the Transport Committee's independence from transport ministers.
Individual traffic authorities may submit local evidence on their
experiences with the way that the adjudication service deals with
motorists' appeals brought before it.
6. As mentioned above there is already well
established national statutory guidance for the management of
civil parking enforcement and this is currently being radically
updated to take account both of developments over the past decade
and of more recent legislation. As far as local authority enforcement
staff are concerned, some have a difficult job dealing with potentially
irate motorists, who may feel that regulations, in general, should
not apply to them. Training of enforcement staff in customer relations
will be important. Unfortunately it appears that an "on the
street" consistency of approach can sometimes be interpreted
as inflexibility. Media reports may not always set out a balanced
picture in reporting individual cases.
7. The independent adjudication bodies set
up using the provisions of the RTA 1991 and the local government
Ombudsman have made proposals based on their experience to clarify
any apparent inconsistencies which may appear in individual authorities'
appeals procedures. Again, the forthcoming revised statutory guidance
should address any outstanding issues.
8. As mentioned above the existence of the
penalty charge revenue stream is an essential pre-requisite for
effective civil enforcement of parking or other traffic offences.
Enforcement activity is an intensive revenue cost on the authorities
and the Committee will be well aware that revenue spending resources
for local government through the RSG system for transport and
highways have either fallen behind or barely kept place with inflation
in recent decades. There are likely to be wide variations in set-up
and running costs for civil enforcement schemes based on local
geographical circumstances. The Association does not have the
resources to collect operational cost information for individual
council services such as this but understands that outside London
it is unlikely that any significant surpluses are made over and
above the running costs of enforcement services. It is not clear
whether the Committee's comment in its press notice that "parking
fines (sic) raised nearly £1 billion in 2004" takes
set up and running costs into account.
9. Local authorities operate their traffic
management strategies under a variety of external limitations,
including the constraints of planning guidance, their duties under
the Traffic Management Act 2004, the limitations of the local
physical environment, conflicts between different classes of road
user for any space available and the seemingly inexorable increase
in the number of motor vehicles on our roads. The competition
for road space may lead to more parking restrictions or to a need
for better enforcement, for example of bus and cycle lanes introduced
in pursuit of wider transport policies. There can be conflicts
between commuter and resident parking near to public transport
interchanges, so every location will have its own factors affecting
not only the level of provision to meet valid needs but also the
level that physically can be provided.
10. Whilst this question is addressed in
more detail below, the Committee will be aware of the growing
importance of public safety and security in developing parking
and traffic management policies which will no doubt have impacted
on MPs and others wishing to park in or on-street near to Parliament
and elsewhere. Security and safety implications may not always
appear obvious to motorists.
11. Effective traffic management policies
have always required the deployment of those elements from a basket
of measures which are most suited to changing local conditions.
Some of these will be parking elements, and there is the wider
workplace parking levy tool set out in the Transport Act 2000,
as yet to be taken up. In view of geographical and other differences
around the country the degree to which parking is restricted,
priced or rationed will vary. Parking policy can be linked to
public transport policy, for example in the development of park
and ride sites and, where feasible given the general lack of local
authority influence on bus operators since the Transport Act 1985,
which the Committee has noted in recent inquiries, co-ordination
of parking fee and public transport fare increases.
12. The terms "the public" and
"the motorist" are not synonymous and the more extreme
motorist lobby sometimes appears to give the impression that it
is both central and local government's duty to facilitate drivers
to travel as fast as possible and park outside the door of their
destination, at no cost. The Association believes that the public
perception, both of motorists and non motorists is that balanced,
fair and effective parking policies within Local Transport Plans
are essential for the efficient operation of the local road network
and maintenance of the local environment.