Select Committee on Transport Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Manchester City Council


  The primary aim of Manchester's Parking Service's is to help achieve a 24-hour congestion free city. It aims to support the economic stability and growth of Manchester by providing and managing On and some Off Street parking provision for all those who wish to work, live and play in the city, whilst also contributing directly towards wider environmental and transportation objectives, balancing the needs of other transport mediums with sufficient parking provision to meet demand. The parking enforcement service, which supports wider City policies, has a stated aim of becoming the UK's most customer focussed parking service and is well on its way to securing this status. Over the last 18 months, the Parking service's remit has been stretched, to recognise and incorporate the role that Parking has to play with the liveability agenda as well as the transportation agenda. This is summarised in the service vision below:

    Manchester's parking service will manage parking in support the City's wider economic, environmental and transportation objectives. Where parking enforcement is necessary, this will be undertaken in a reasonable and proportionate manner, which attracts public support. The Council's parking service, aims to become the UK's most customer focussed parking service.


  In 2002, Manchester's Parking Service was experiencing a low point in public confidence, and criticism from the local press. Parking enforcement was widely perceived as being draconian and profit driven, and there had been some highly publicised blunders. Whilst the Council's motives were to maintain traffic flow, this was not translated into on the ground delivery. The majority of the customer-facing components were also operated through the contractor, rather than directly by the Council. A far reaching service review was undertaken and a series of initiatives have since been implemented that have overhauled Manchester's approach to parking enforcement, and have helped to make Manchester's Parking Service an award winning one.

2.1  The "Reasonable and Proportionate" approach

  This philosophy has transformed the Council's enforcement policy, and helped drastically improve the Service's public image. This has given absolute discretion to Parking Attendants in "borderline" cases, allowing common sense to be employed before issuing a ticket. This has led to a reduction in the number of parking tickets issued for more innocuous offences, and helped to reduce conflict with motorists. The reasonable and proportionate approach is also mirrored by ticket processing staff when considering appeals, and not just at the kerbside. Processing staff are empowered to make the decision on an appeal that they feel is reasonable, and each case is judged on its own merits, rather than following the restrictions to the letter of the law.

2.2  Clamping, (probably the most emotive enforcement tactic), was ceased in 2003

  Clamping was a practice imported from London when Manchester decriminalised parking enforcement in 1998. Clamping was not deemed to match local priorities, and was therefore assessed to be an unreasonable practice. If the aim of parking enforcement is keeping the city moving, immobilising vehicles does not fit within this remit.

2.3  A Change in Removal Policy

  The number of removals has also been halved, and vehicles are now only towed away if they constitute a hazard or a blockage. This has reduced the number of disproportionate removals, and freed up tow trucks to focus on removing untaxed vehicles from the City's streets through "Operation CUBIT".

  Working closely with the Police and the DVLA, over 35,000 untaxed vehicles have been removed since the operation commenced. Some of these vehicles are involved in criminal activity, and have often been highlighted as a result of police intelligence. The service has also recently started removing abandoned vehicles. This enforcement has been popular amongst Manchester's communities, and has meant that 80% of all Manchester's vehicle removals are for untaxed or abandoned vehicles.

2.4  An Incentive Based Contract

  As part of these changes, Manchester is looking to reflect the change in attitudes through the on-street contract that has recently been awarded to NCP. This new contract is consistent with the "reasonable and proportionate" approach, and offers incentive payments based on performance rather than on the number of PCNs issued. One of the key principles is the absence default payments in the contract, removing much of the possibility for tension in the relationship. The contract includes a set of quality measurements, linked to the incentive payments, and these are agreed through a quarterly business planning process, allowing the service to evolve to match local priorities. The service is now considered to be an "in house service delivered through a contractor" and Manchester is now a natural leader in its contract design.

2.5  Service Restructure

  This has focussed on bringing customer-facing elements of the Service under direct Council control. Services brought "in-house" have included appeal processing, payments, and the Parking counter facility and investment in infrastructure such as premises, vehicles and the IT system. All Customer facing elements are now operated directly by Council staff who reflect Manchester City Council's values and working practices. Parking Attendants have also been re-branded in Council uniforms, with contractor insignia removed. This re-branding has helped to improve public trust in the service, and challenge the old perception of a profit driven parking policy.

2.6  Liaison Officers

  Parking Liaison Officers have been brought in to represent the customer within the service, and tackle parking anomalies across Manchester. They are responsible for addressing obsolete and unnecessary parking restrictions, and are empowered to deliver change. So far they have helped to redress parking complaints for hundreds of businesses and residents, and are leading Manchester's campaign against use of fraudulent disabled badges, an issue that has won the service a great deal of public support. The real win of the Liaison team is that they operate when the customer needs them, at evenings, weekends and wherever is convenient to them.

2.7  Investment in infrastructure

  Infrastructure such as vehicles, IT and accommodation, has been internalised, allowing investment to be made in the service unhindered by contract durations. Premises have been refurbished and new mopeds, cars and trucks have been purchased. A new IT System is also being procured, that incorporates on a whole raft of environmental enforcement powers, as well as parking enforcement.

2.8  Review of on street parking facilities

  Further considering the local need, a far-reaching review of on street parking restrictions was undertaken. On street parking provision was doubled, and considering public safety, junction protection with restrictions was implemented at the majority of intersections.

2.9  Parking as a "liveability" issue not just a transport one

  Manchester City Council sees it's parking service as a key part of a Street Management group that also manages Street Wardens, and Street Environment Managers. This on street enforcement family is branded in the same way, and work together to improve the street scene. In parking terms, this means that Parking Attendants are also reporting liveability issues, such as flytipping, or broken lights, and can also have a major impact on untaxed and abandoned vehicles. This has had a knock on effect of increased job satisfaction for Parking Attendants and the concept of parking as a liveability issue has helped to raise the public profile of the service.


  The service is not more lenient, merely fairer, as is demonstrated by the service's appeals record. During 2003-04, the number of PCNs issued fell by 6.8% on the previous year. The number of appeals however, fell by 30.3%, implying that the number of tickets felt by the motorist to be unfair had dropped significantly. This downward trend has continued year on year:

Motorist Appeals to NPAS

2005-06 (projected)

  In Manchester therefore, this approach is beginning to reverse the perception of parking policy as unreasonable and profit driven. Manchester is leading a trend away from rigid and disproportionate parking enforcement, which is having a profound influence on the industry. Other Councils are already following in Manchester's footsteps, and are now adopting a similar "common sense" approach.


  By delivering a reasonable parking strategy, Manchester have begun to regain public acceptance for parking enforcement. This acceptance has helped ensure that parking enforcement remains viable in terms of public perception, and is perceived as fair. The approach has generated goodwill from motorists, whilst attracting support and backing from major players within the industry. Edmund King, Executive Director of the RAC Foundation has stated; "Manchester will serve as a model for other local authorities which have fallen into difficulties over decriminalised parking". Kevin Delaney, also of the RAC Foundation, added; "Manchester seems to have returned us to where we should have been 10 years ago". Local media support has also been forthcoming, and the Manchester Evening News, a former critic of parking policy, has lent its support, calling the service's rethink a "parking revolution".


  Manchester is looking to tackle a number of key service improvements in the future including voice recorded and online representations; conference call NPAS appeals and ANPR readers on Parking Attendants hand held units, allowing them to further have impact on vehicle crime.

  Equally important, is to further develop the concept of the Parking Attendant in the "capable guardian" role, within the wider context of neighbourhood management. An holistic approach to parking enforcement not only gives a Parking Service greater credibility, but also maximises the impact of the service. The future may see Manchester's Parking Attendants also issuing Fixed Penalty Notices for littering, or becoming further involved with issues around street scene quality.

18 November 2005

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