Examination of Witnesses (Questions 64
WEDNESDAY 7 DECEMBER 2005
Q64 Chairman: Good afternoon to you,
gentlemen. Can we ask you to identify yourselves, starting with
my left and your right.
Cllr Chalkley: Danny Chalkley.
I am one of the Councillors on Westminster Council and I am a
Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Transport.
Mr Lester: I am Nick Lester. I
am the Director of Transport, Environment and Planning for the
Association of London Government.
Cllr Page: Cllr Tony Page from
Reading but representing the Local Government Association.
Cllr Knasel: Cllr Richard Knasel
from Winchester City Council, and I am Portfolio Holder for Economic
Development and Transport.
Mr Vaughan: Andy Vaughan, Head
of Street Management, Manchester City Council.
Q65 Chairman: Thank you very much,
gentlemen. Did you either jointly or severally have anything you
wanted to say before we start?
Cllr Page: No, we will go straight
Q66 Chairman: We have got lots of
questions for you all. What action is needed to bring the standard
of the worst up to the best in local authority parking enforcement?
Who is going to pick up that question?
Mr Lester: If I can start off,
I think there is a number of things which can be done. The Government
statutory guidance will help. In London we produce a Code of Practice,
which was originally produced in 1993. It was updated in 1999
and is being updated again. We will add to that.
Q67 Chairman: What happens? Do your
authorities not take notice of your Code of Practice if there
is already a certain amount of divergence across the authority?
Mr Lester: It is non-statutory,
therefore it is non-binding, but as far as I am aware local authorities
take notice of this, but obviously no code, no guidance can cover
every individual situation. Local circumstances vary and local
circumstances on each individual penalty will vary, and also local
policies towards how councils want to respond to representations
will vary. Some councils will want to be stricter than others.
Q68 Chairman: So you are saying you
would really like statutory guidance?
Cllr Page: That will help. Also,
efforts which can be made to improve and impart best practice.
We do quite a lot of it in London, but there is not an equivalent
to my organisation outside London which covers the same ground.
Q69 Chairman: So what about your
Code of Practice? What, therefore, ought to be in it?
Cllr Page: It covers the whole
range of enforcement activities and gives guidance to authorities
about how to interpret different parts of it. It does not cover
where to have a yellow or not, that is a different matter; that
is regulation and that is entirely down to the individual authorities.
Q70 Chairman: But it would be very
specific. Do you have a way of effectively looking at the quality
of the policy and the enforcement which would be assessed?
Cllr Page: The bottom line on
enforcement quality is undoubtedly compliancedo motorists
comply with the regulations or not?but that is difficult
and expensive to measure accurately. It involves people sitting
on the roadside for 16 hours a day. It is very easy to count the
number of illegal acts, but what is also important is the duration
of illegal acts, otherwise you are saying that one person parked
illegally for two hours is less of a problem than two people who
park illegally for five minutes each.
Q71 Chairman: We will come on to
this, and in fact we will ask Manchester a bit about that, on
flexibility, but are you saying that statutory performance indicators
and a service level agreement would not work?
Cllr Page: No, they will help,
and I think there needs to be a range of measures to assess performance,
but the bottom line for all enforcement must be compliance. That
is what it is there for more than anything else.
Q72 Clive Efford: Can I ask the local
authority representatives, have your parking payment revenue accounts
been in surplus in the years during which they have been in operation?
Let us start with Mr Vaughan.
Mr Vaughan: Yes, is the short
answer. Manchester's parking account generates about £1 million
surplus per year. That it is really generated from on-street.
Q73 Chairman: Is that the new or
the old scheme, Mr Vaughan, so we are quite clear? Has it been
consistently £1 million per year through the entire scheme?
Mr Vaughan: Yes. I think the changes
that Manchester has made have actually been around the fringes
in reality, but they are the ones which are the most high-profile
cases. So it has been consistent throughout. With the parking
enforcement service, the cost of the service is broadly met through
the issuing of penalty charge notices. That is cost neutral, and
that additional income is generated through on-street pay and
display charges, people paying to park rather than fine income,
if that makes sense.
Cllr Knasel: In Winchester the
overall off-street and on-street surplus was about £300,000
last year. We make a surplus. With on-street parking only, we
made a surplus of £36,000 last year.
Cllr Chalkley: Historically, Westminster
has always been in surplus and if you take all of the income we
get from all of our on-street services, that is meters, the various
levels of enforcement, suspensions and dispensations, etc, less
all of the costs which we incur, for last year 2004-05 it was
£38.8 million to the parking places reserve account.
Mr Lester: If I can put the figure
in context for London as a whole, there are four authorities who
make an annual surplus of £10 million and another five authorities
whose annual surplus exceeds £5 million. All the rest are
less than that, and two authorities make a deficit.
Q74 Clive Efford: The next highest
is half of that, is it not?
Mr Lester: Yes, I think that is
right, but certainly the point which Mr Vaughan made, which is
that enforcement broadly breaks even and the surpluses are made
from legal parking charges meters, pay and display, is the generality
across London and the reason why Westminster makes such a high
surplus is because it has most of its streets controlled and a
large amount of paid for spaces.
Q75 Clive Efford: As local authorities,
do you set targets for income from parking, and if so does that
include income from penalty charge notices?
Mr Vaughan: Absolutely not. No,
there is not a target for penalty charge notice income. I think
that would be contrary to everything Manchester is trying to achieve.
There are, of course, four councils. In terms of income we base
it on previous years' experience, but absolutely not targets,
and I think that is really at the heart of Manchester's philosophy
Cllr Knasel: Absolutely no targets
at all. We just have a budgetary forecast based on previous experience.
Q76 Clive Efford: Presumably it is
the same answer for Westminster?
Cllr Chalkley: Absolutely, yes.
Q77 Clive Efford: So on the surplusesand
this is really a question for Westminster, because the surpluses
in the other two authorities are minimalwhat do you use
the surpluses that you make on the income from parking charges
and penalty charge notices for as a local authority?
Cllr Chalkley: Nick is quite right.
If you take away the monies we get through meters the surplus
just associated with on-street enforcement I think last year was
about £6 or 7 million, so that narrows it down from the £38.8
considerably. In terms of what we spend it on, as you know, there
are limits on the range of things we are able to spend it on.
We spend it on routine maintenance of our highways, servicing,
paving, lighting, that sort of thing. We spend it on very human
services such as taxi card schemes and concessionary fares for
our elderly people, and we also use it to part-fund some very
large public infrastructure projects, for example the Golden Jubilee
bridges, which I like to think there is nobody in this room who
does not think that that is a credit to not just Westminster but
Q78 Clive Efford: Your penalty charge
notices for this year, are you on target for the figure you have
put in your base budget?
Cllr Chalkley: No, we are a long
way short of our forecast for this year. I can tell you that we
are about £13 million in income terms from our budget and
that is largely due to the decisions which have been taken over
the last year in policy terms. We have scrapped meter-feeding.
I think that was covered in the previous session. We have made
a whole range of policy changes to make our policies fairer.
Q79 Clive Efford: Given that you
have whittled the figure down, when you take the whole enforcement
process into consideration, does that mean you are now making
a net contribution from your general fund into your parking revenue
Cllr Chalkley: This year it is
unlikely that we will make a contribution.