Select Committee on Transport Seventh Report


CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Enforcement

Advantages of a single decriminalised enforcement system

1.  The Department has no milestones or targets for applying a single parking regime throughout the country. Given that the then Minister told us that the move to decriminalised parking "makes sense", the absence of a structured policy is a serious shortcoming. The advantages of a single system were perfectly apparent to the Minister (and no doubt to Departmental officials) but vigorous policy action taken to create the optimum framework with the minimum of delay has been completely absent. (Paragraph 29)

2.  It is all the more strange that an unfocused approach should have been tolerated when the police and the local authorities appear strongly in favour of decriminalised parking enforcement. We believe that it is unacceptable that there are two parallel systems of parking enforcement: one criminal and one civil, with distinct legal and procedural requirements. (Paragraph 30)

3.  Local authority enforcement is the most effective way of encouraging compliance with measures which bring significant traffic flow and road safety benefits to local areas. It is not sensible that motorists should be subject to different processes for the same parking violations in different parts of the country. We recommend that civil parking enforcement should be extended to all local authorities without delay. The Department must take the lead with local authorities in establishing a detailed implementation timetable with a date by which civil parking enforcement should be applied throughout the country. In council areas that would not be able to make parking enforcement self-funding, the Department should encourage a partnership approach and promote shared schemes across larger areas. (Paragraph 31)

Statutory Guidance

The advantages of specific guidance

4.  The Department for Transport appears intent on replacing the detailed and well regarded 1995 document of guidance on decriminalised parking with a more general document pitched at a 'strategic' level. The 1995 document does require to be replaced, and we support the Department's desire to update it. But we consider the move to a more general approach to be a severely retrograde step. Our evidence was that much of the value of the 1995 guidance document lies in the level of detail it contains. The Department needs to reconsider its approach. In any case, it will be essential that the Department consults all relevant organisations, including local government, the parking industry, the Adjudication Services, and the business sector, over the form and content of the future guidelines to ensure they are fully and appropriately useful. We expect to see the Department taking pains over this exercise. (Paragraph 35)

The need for revised guidance

5.  The 1995 guidance was good but could be improved in the light of experience. There are many examples of poor application of the rules. New guidance is needed to raise the standards required of local authorities operating civil parking enforcement. Lessons that have been learned over the past decade in different parts of the country must be shared systematically with those embarking on schemes of decriminalised parking enforcement to avoid the same mistakes being made. (Paragraph 38)

Departmental leadership

6.  The failure to evaluate decriminalised parking enforcement on a nation-wide basis leaves the Department in a difficult position in developing revised statutory guidance on civil parking enforcement. The Department would have been much better placed to make the most of the opportunity to issue regulations and new guidance of real use had it undertaken this evaluation. The Department should have conducted such an evaluation of decriminalised parking enforcement, and it now needs to consider very carefully whether it has the basic data to move to issue guidance at this time, or whether more research is required first. (Paragraph 40)

7.  The usefulness and underlying legitimacy of civil parking enforcement rests in it being carried out to the highest standard by local authorities. At present our evidence is that this is not the case. The new statutory guidance and the regulations will have a central role to play in raising standards and spreading best practice between councils. Many of the current concerns about civil parking enforcement can, and should, be dealt with through the new regulations and better guidance. (Paragraph 41)

Transparency

8.  Major improvements in the public perception and credibility of decriminalised parking enforcement could be made if local authority parking operations were more transparent. (Paragraph 43)

Publication of annual statistics

9.  We were taken aback to learn from the Chief Parking Adjudicator for England and Wales that she could not find a single annual report published by a council parking department. Why so basic an administrative action should be left undone is unclear. We consider that the absence of such reports has contributed materially to the frustration and anger felt by many of those who become caught up in the parking enforcement system. Local authorities have shown poor judgement and a lack of professionalism in failing to publish and highlight their parking polices and objectives, performance measurements, financial information, and an appropriately complete range of relevant statistics. Action to begin to place this important information in the public domain need not await central Government guidance. The local authorities need to publish it without delay. (Paragraph 47)

10.  We list below what we would expect to see in the annual reports of local authority parking departments:

    Expenditure on the civil parking enforcement scheme

    Revenue collected

    Revenue outstanding and use of bailiffs

    Expenditure of surpluses

    Parking compliance survey statistics

    Number of Penalty Charge Notices issued and other enforcement actions

    Number of informal representations received

    Number of Penalty Charge Notices cancelled by the council prior to adjudication

    Number of appeals against the council lodged with the adjudicators and the number upheld and refused; and

    Details of costs awarded by the adjudicators, against and in favour of the council (Paragraph 48)

Parking as an income generator for local authorities

Restrictions on the use of any surplus revenues

11.  There is some danger that councils will be tempted to use civil parking enforcement to raise additional revenue. They must resist this, and in fact we found no hard evidence that there was a widespread problem. We accept that budgetary forecasting is a necessary part of prudent financial planning. Forecasts must not however be interpreted in any way as revenue targets. (Paragraph 60)

12.  If local councils set revenue targets these will override the traffic management objectives which must govern the use of the surpluses generated. In order to relieve undue pressure on parking managers, the Department must make it absolutely clear in the statutory guidance that operations must support transport priorities and not financial targets. The Department and the Audit Commission must uphold this principle and challenge any authorities that appear to be doing otherwise in the operation of their civil parking enforcement. (Paragraph 61)

Parking Charges

13.  Councils raise significant revenues from parking charges, much more than from penalty charges. We do not consider that absolute national consistency in parking charges would allow each local area to achieve its transport management objectives. Local parking charges need to be set within the overall context of a local transport strategy with a strong underlying traffic management basis. There should be uniformity of approach in arriving at such charges, but local flexibility in setting them according to prevailing local conditions. Charges must be reviewed at regular intervals to ensure that the levels which have been set are achieving the intended pattern of use of the parking spaces available, whether this is short stay, resident use, commuter traffic, or loading. (Paragraph 64)

Enforcement contracts and incentives

14.  Incentive schemes in parking enforcement contracts are utterly misguided. Why these should have ever have been considered to be compatible with sensible enforcement of parking measures as a tool of street management is a mystery. That some local authorities should have started them, in the face of common sense and sound administration, is deeply disappointing. (Paragraph 69)

15.  We cannot stress too strongly that enforcement contracts with incentive regimes based on the number of tickets issued or other enforcement actions should not be permitted. Every local authority operating a decriminalised parking scheme should be required to affirm that it does not operate on this basis. Such incentives will squeeze out sensible traffic management objectives and serve to undermine legitimacy and public confidence in civil enforcement. We commend the use of the 'model contract' developed by the British Parking Association for private parking contracts. (Paragraph 70)

Scrutiny of local authority parking operations

16.  The Audit Commission must be able to scrutinise local authority parking departments. In order to provide an incentive to councils to raise the standard of their parking enforcement operations, civil parking enforcement should be given more prominence in the Comprehensive Performance Assessment (CPA). The inspection regime should examine not only the accounts, efficiency of the operation and any allegations of maladministration, but also the professionalism of the service. Under such a system, poor parking service performance should be reflected in the CPA scoring assessment. This system would reward those councils that demonstrate effectiveness and quality in the parking services they deliver for the public. (Paragraph 73)

Performance indicators

17.  In the interests of raising standards initially, and to ensure a consistently high quality of civil parking enforcement, local authorities should be required to report against a tightly focused set of performance indicators. It is a significant flaw in the existing reporting requirements that the optional performance indicators for local authority parking activity deal only with the parking infrastructure in place, and therefore fail to provide insights into the standard of enforcement service. A 'customer service' attitude towards residents, businesses and visitors to the area in all aspects of the parking operation needs to be encouraged. The standards achieved must be monitored and published. (Paragraph 77)

18.  Compliance with parking regulations is the most important measure of performance within a parking enforcement regime. This can be measured by roadside surveys, and some local authorities undertake such evaluations now. All councils engaged in decriminalised parking enforcement should be required to do so. The key performance indicators should illustrate how efficiently and effectively local authorities are conducting civil parking enforcement, and the level of focus on 'customer service'. Examples might include: accuracy of Penalty Charge Notices issued, clear information on the procedures for making representations, speed of responding to representations, and the number of appeals made to the Adjudicator which are uncontested by the council. Where enforcement is contracted out to the private sector, the same suite of indicators should be embedded within the contract. (Paragraph 78)

A parking regulator

19.  The existing institutional framework for parking enforcement should, if correctly managed and extended, provide adequate scrutiny of local authority parking management without the establishment of a 'parking regulator'. But the local authorities, the Government, the parking adjudication services, and the private sector need to cooperate now to drive up the standards of performance. If they cannot manage to demonstrate real progress within a reasonable time scale then alternatives will need to be found. In those circumstances, the advantages of a 'parking regulator' might need to be considered further. (Paragraph 81)

Representations

Timeframes

Waiting for the 'Notice to Owner'

20.  There is an important and urgent job to be done by the Department for Transport and the local authorities in raising awareness amongst motorists of the steps involved in making representations against Penalty Charge Notices. (Paragraph 85)

21.  Although local authorities are not obliged to consider representations before the 'Notice to Owner' has been issued, it is good practice for local authority officials to deal with any representations and challenges as soon as they are received. The Department needs to emphasize this in its statutory guidance. (Paragraph 87)

Local authorities' response to representations

22.  At present there is no requirement on local authorities to deal with challenges to Penalty Charge Notices within a set time framework. This is extremely poor administrative practice. It is also plainly unfair as the motorist appealing must adhere to a strict deadline of 28 days when making a challenge. (Paragraph 89)

23.  We suggest that the statutory guidance from the Department should require local authorities to resolve most representations within an established time limit. We suggest that the starting point for identifying a sensible target time for all representations should be 28 days. Members of the public have 28 days in which to lodge their representations once they have received the 'Notice to Owner'. It seems reasonable that the local authority should work to the same standards. It should be possible for councils to resolve the vast majority of representations within that period. Where a dispute is exceptionally complex then a correspondingly exceptional extension of time might be allowed. The vital point is to establish administrative clarity, so that the complainant and the local authority have precise deadlines for exchanging correspondence, and expectations about what the procedures should deliver are managed properly. (Paragraph 90)

Grounds for considering representations

24.  We heard evidence from local authority representatives of the importance of those who have challenged a Penalty Charge Notice receiving high quality responses to their representations. Local authorities cannot contract out their statutory responsibility to consider representations. Councils must therefore make a proper investment in staff training and management processes to ensure that this statutory responsibility is discharged satisfactorily. In order to deal thoroughly with representations, councils will need to employ appropriate numbers of well-trained administrative staff and legal specialists to advise swiftly and authoritatively on parking enforcement matters. (Paragraph 93)

Exercising discretion

25.  It is a serious failing that some local authorities are not properly discharging their responsibility to use discretion in considering representations. Councils must take this responsibility seriously in order that a just outcome is reached on each occasion that a Penalty Charge Notice is challenged (Paragraph 95)

Design of notices

26.  Despite the clear recommendation of the Local Government Ombudsmen in 2004, a lack of clear information to motorists on the representations stage of the parking process continues to be a problem. This is reprehensible on the part of the local authorities concerned, and steps need to be taken straightaway by them to ensure that the documents they issue are drafted fairly, clearly and accurately. Local authorities must attend to the recommendations of the Local Government Ombudsmen. (Paragraph 98)

27.  Omitting information on 'Notice to Owner' forms about appeals, while including information on the required payments, leaves local authorities open to charges of sharp practice. Motorists are entitled to be told of their right to challenge a Penalty Charge Notice and of their subsequent right of appeal to the independent adjudicators. This is not always the case at present, and it must change. (Paragraph 99)

28.  The Department should issue revised statutory guidance to local authorities setting out the content to be included in the Penalty Charge Notice and 'Notice to Owner'. This must, as a minimum, convey to the public how the process operates, the right to challenge the penalty and how to do so, and the grounds on which mitigation will be considered. There is currently lack of clarity, consistency, and completeness in the information councils provide. (Paragraph 100)

The 'pay or challenger' approach

29.  The Department's statutory guidance should require local authorities to make it clear on the Penalty Charge Notice and on the 'Notice to Owner' that payment of the charge will preclude the driver from challenging the penalty at a later stage. Unless this aspect of the system is made clear, motorists may be misled as to the course of action they wish to follow. Because there is the attractive incentive of a discount for early payment, it is of particular importance that the 'pay or challenge' principle is clearly communicated to motorists at the first opportunity. (Paragraph 102)

Fourteen day discount

30.  In order to ensure that no motorist is deterred from challenging a Penalty Charge Notice which they believe to be incorrect because they do not want to risk losing the 50 per cent discount, local authorities should be statutorily required to re-offer the 14 day, 50 per cent discount from the time of the 'Notice to Owner' and for a further 14 days after representations have been rejected. We expect the Department to ensure that the new statutory guidance embodies this point. (Paragraph 106)

Professional service, costs, compensation

31.  If and when mistakes are made by enforcement staff, the errors must be corrected swiftly and professionally. It is most important that councils have good calibre and appropriately trained staff in the parking departments to deal competently with representations against Penalty Charge Notices, and to deal efficiently and effectively with any mistakes that arise. The Department for Transport should monitor the local authorities' ability to appoint, train, and retain such essential staff. (Paragraph 108)

32.  We encourage parking adjudicators to be fully alert to their powers to award costs. Where motorists have been unduly inconvenienced by poor council performance some financial award can help to alleviate the sense of injustice. The definition of 'wholly unreasonably' as a criterion for the award of costs should be interpreted by adjudicators with this in mind, particularly in cases where frustration and inconvenience is caused unnecessarily to innocent parties. (Paragraph 110)

33.  Further, the Department for Transport should give consideration to extending the powers of the adjudicators to award costs, particularly where the administration of representations against Penalty Charge Notices has been deficient, and where Traffic Regulation Orders have not been updated. By doing so, the reach of the adjudicators will be extended, the accountability of councils sharpened, and councils also stimulated to raise their overall performance. (Paragraph 111)

Appeals to the parking adjudicators

Are drivers deterred from challenging Penalty Charge Notices?

34.  The adjudication service provides an important function in a suitably independent, professional and customer-oriented manner. But it may not be used as often as it should. Only 0.37 per cent of Penalty Charge Notices issued end up with the parking adjudicators for decision, a very small proportion indeed. The right to independent adjudication is central to the proper functioning of decriminalised parking enforcement. Information on this right needs to reach all motorists, and to be widely understood by the public at large. We suspect that the very small number of appeals is partly at least related to the relative obscurity of the service. (Paragraph 127)

35.  Technical barriers to seeking justice through independent adjudication must be removed. The 14-day 50 per cent discount should be automatically re-offered to motorists whose appeals to the adjudicators are rejected, except in cases of deliberate abuse of the system. (Paragraph 128)

Powers of the adjudicators

36.  It appears disproportionate to have to take a dispute over a parking 'ticket' to Judicial Review at the High Court in order to enforce the adjudicator's advice on proper consideration of discretion. Where councils have failed to exercise discretion, the adjudicators should have the powers to instruct local authorities to reconsider. We were pleased to learn that the Department for Transport is considering including these powers in the regulations under section 80(3) of the Traffic Management Act 2004. (Paragraph 132)

INVESTIGATING MALADMINISTRATION

37.  We understand the potential for confusion between the roles of the parking adjudication services and the Local Government Ombudsman over parking appeals. But these roles are quite separate. Investigating systematic maladministration is distinct from deciding whether a correct decision has been reached in individual cases of disputed Penalty Charge Notices. The responsibility for investigating maladministration by local government parking teams should continue to be a matter for the Local Government Ombudsman and not for the parking adjudicators. (Paragraph 136)

38.  We note the concern expressed by the Chief Adjudicator for England and Wales that some cases appear to be falling between these two tribunals. We recommend therefore that the Government considers this issue to ensure that where there appear to be implications for the parking adjudication services in the work of the Local Government Ombudsman, and vice versa, there are agreed procedures to ensure that confusion is avoided. We expect the two tribunals to work well together so that the public is not inconvenienced. (Paragraph 137)

THE IMPORTANCE OF DEVELOPING THE ADJUDICATION SERVICE

39.  The Government needs to unlock the full potential of the parking adjudication service. The independence of the service needs to be emphasized in its funding arrangements. At present participating local authorities fund the service. This projects an unfortunate appearance that the service may be under the control of the councils. It certainly does not convey the impression of independence that is the basis for raising its status and profile. The Government should review the funding of the service and propose arrangements that emphasize its separate judicial status and its independence from the councils. (Paragraph 139)

40.  We expect councils to make much greater efforts to support the adjudication process by improving their cooperation and their parking administration throughout the adjudication process. By doing so they will contribute to raising the overall professionalism of the parking system and improving the service to the public. We have encouraged adjudicators to use their powers to award costs against councils whose performance is unacceptable. We expect the Government to review these powers, take a view on whether they are an effective means of ensuring council compliance, and consider what more could be done to provide the adjudicators with powers to ensure good council cooperation. (Paragraph 140)

41.   Local authorities have a responsibility to make sure that all motorists who receive a 'Notice to Owner' about a parking contravention are made aware of their eventual right to appeal to the parking adjudicator if their representations to the council are rejected. The initial Penalty Charge Notice and the 'Notice to Owner' should make this clear. In the correspondence rejecting a challenge, local authorities should explain the reasons for the rejection, in order that the motorist can make an informed decision about whether to proceed to the adjudicator. Information on the process and the role of the parking adjudication services in particular, should be presented invariably to the public on council websites. (Paragraph 141)

42.  We urge the parking adjudicators themselves to consider what, as a body, they can do to raise the professional profile of their service. They should ensure that the Government is fully aware of their views. The service performed by the adjudicators is a most important one. Motorists are frequently frustrated by what appear, and frequently are, unresponsive local authority processes. The knowledge that there is a 'court of appeal' where they will receive a fair and speedy hearing is a significant factor in balancing the administration of justice, improving the professionalism of the parking system, and reducing individual stress. (Paragraph 142)

Proportionality

43.  The Government needs to give consideration to making penalties proportionate to the seriousness of the contravention. This would result in a more finely calibrated, but still practical, scale of penalties than exist at present. Illegal parking acts which clearly create danger for other road users, those which result in disruption to traffic flow, and those which contribute to congestion, should attract penalties at the severe end of the scale. This is likely to have a welcome deterrent effect. For parking contraventions which do not have these consequences a relatively lesser penalty may be more reasonable. (Paragraph 145)

44.  It would not be feasible to vary the penalty applied according to the duration of each parking contravention. It should however be perfectly possible to base penalties on the straightforward distinction between contraventions of 'prohibited parking', for example, resting on double yellow lines, and 'permitted parking', for example, overstaying in car parking spaces. This would help dispel the crudities of the present system, allow penalties to be better aligned with people's sense of natural justice, and at the same time provide a stronger deterrent against more serious contraventions. It should also contribute to fostering a greater public acceptance of civil parking enforcement. (Paragraph 147)

'Wheel clamping' and vehicle removal

The local authority view of clamping

45.  Wheel clamping is a powerful and visible deterrent to illegal parking and can influence the behaviour of those who would disregard a Penalty Charge Notice. It is a severe penalty however. Care must therefore be taken to ensure that wheel clamping is applied proportionately. The Government should consider restricting the use of wheel clamping to persistent offenders and unregistered vehicles. (Paragraph 153)

Vehicle removal

46.  The removal of a vehicle by a local authority on the grounds that it is parked illegally is a very serious matter. The Chief Adjudicator for England and Wales has concerns that vehicle removal may be incompatible with human rights legislation. The Government needs to examine this issue carefully and take a view about whether or not it is within the law. The resulting Departmental guidance will need to be legally robust and clear if it is to be of use. (Paragraph 156)

Penalties for persistent offenders

47.  The Government needs to consider penalties for those who offend persistently against the parking and road use rules, and for those who treat the Penalty Charge Notice system with contempt. The Department needs to consider extending the powers available to local authorities in taking action against this minority of drivers that persistently and wilfully contravene parking regulations, evade penalties, and flout the law. (Paragraph 159)

Foreign-registered vehicles

48.  Many foreign-registered vehicles flaunt UK parking regulations with impunity. This is because co-operation between national enforcement agencies is ineffective. One relevant factor is that access to relevant data is often not readily available to the local authorities here. This is not good enough. The Department for Transport needs to address this problem with some sense of urgency. The Government needs to ensure that the UK's decriminalised parking enforcement regimes are included in international co-operation agreements. It must support local authorities vigorously in pursuing penalties for parking contraventions by foreign-registered vehicles. In its response to this report the Department should explain what action it will take (including legislative action if required) to ensure that the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency is able to assist fully local authorities in pursuing civil enforcement action against owners of foreign-registered vehicles, particularly for those vehicles registered in other European countries. (Paragraph 164)

Clamping on private land

49.  Having a separate system of parking enforcement for private land (including car parks on private land) increases the possibility of confusion on the part of the motorist. It also blurs the lines of accountability. Clamping on private land should be governed by the same framework of restrictions and codes of practice as public on-street clamping. The Government should ensure an equable legal framework including public roads and private land used by the public for parking which will stamp out these abuses. (Paragraph 166)

Baliffs

50.  Local authorities need an effective means for collecting unpaid penalty charges from drivers. Baliffs may be appropriate in a small number of cases. The use of bailiffs must be carefully regulated by the local authority however. Their use in collecting unpaid fines can easily undermine further public confidence in decriminalised parking enforcement. Local authorities must take the greatest care to ensure they use only reputable bailiffs. Bailiff's charges and operational practices must be transparent and subject to prior approval and close monitoring as part of any contractual agreement. These charges must be as widely publicised as possible and freely available to the public. (Paragraph 171)

Staff

51.  The current reputation of civil parking enforcement staff is generally low. The parking service must demonstrate substantial and sustained improvement. To achieve this, it will be essential to raise the professionalism of those who are responsible for applying the rules - the attendants and 'back room' parking department staff - in parallel with improving the quality of the rules themselves. If this does not happen then the effort to improve parking enforcement will fail. (Paragraph 173)

Assaults on staff

52.  The function of parking attendants means that they are the public face of the parking service. Because the parking enforcement service is widely unpopular, parking attendants are frequently the focus of confrontation and the targets of abuse. Many are assaulted. This is completely unacceptable. Parking attendants carry out the rules of the regime. Inadequacies in the regime should be addressed vigorously and within the law to those directly responsible, the local authorities and the Department for Transport. (Paragraph 176)

Training and recruitment

53.  All councils and contractors must pursue recruitment and training practices that ensure a professional approach to parking enforcement work. Rigorous recruitment processes should be applied to ensure that all those appointed can be trusted to work with integrity. Parking attendants need to be appropriately trained to ensure high levels of understanding of the parking regulations in force, and what constitutes best practice in their enforcement. In addition to technical knowledge, the training needs to include inter-personal skills, and techniques of minimising conflict in carrying out their duty. As front line staff, it is important that parking attendants have good communication skills and an ability to relate well to members of the public. (Paragraph 180)

Remuneration

54.  Parking attendants should be paid salaries that match equivalently responsible roles within other fields of local government. It is in local authorities' interests, and the interests of motorists, pedestrians and all those who use the streets, to employ, and require their contractors to employ, high calibre, professional, and personable staff, capable of enforcing traffic regulations calmly and without error. (Paragraph 184)

A national qualification

55.  We warmly support the introduction of the British Parking Association's national structured programme of training for parking attendants; and national qualifications in parking enforcement. This is a key to raising the quality of parking enforcement. Attainment of appropriate standards by parking attendants and administrative staff, through a rigorous and uniform training and testing process throughout the country, should be a fundamental requirement to work in this area. The Department's statutory guidance should mandate such training for staff. (Paragraph 186)

Retention of staff

56.  A key objective in making the parking regime better will be to develop the present highly unstable parking attendant workforce into a stable and experienced body with a well grounded and deepening sense of its own potential to exert a positive influence on the streets. There is some way to go before that is achieved. (Paragraph 189)

57.  It will be essential to reduce the high rate of 'churn' in the profession. Such a reduction will itself be an index of success in applying the measures necessary to raise the status and professionalism of the attendants' role. If the standard of enforcement activity is to be raised, local authorities and contractors must work hard to achieve stability. (Paragraph 190)

58.  The move to include street management and neighbourhood 'ambassadorial' roles within parking attendants' duties seem a generally positive development. Care will be needed however to ensure that these broader responsibilities do not deflect local authorities and the Department from the central objective of improving parking enforcement activity. (Paragraph 191)

'ON-STREET DISCRETION'

59.  We do not dismiss the counsel of those who warn that giving parking attendants discretion when issuing Penalty Charge Notices could lead to problems of assaults and corruption. This has not happened however in the case of Manchester City Council which allows its attendants such discretion. There, the introduction of discretion has been accompanied by a substantial fall in the number of Penalty Charge Notices issued and a drastic fall in the number of appeals. (Paragraph 195)

60.  It is too early to say whether the Manchester experiment should set a pattern for parking enforcement throughout the country. But there is clearly a case on empirical grounds for the Department for Transport and local authorities to look seriously at allowing parking attendants, in addition to back-office staff, to exercise the discretion that is a responsibility of each council in law. Any such move must be accompanied by systemic improvements in recruitment, training and management to inspire confidence in the public that all staff understand the need to exercise such a duty with diligence and expertise. Excellent monitoring will be necessary to ensure that incidences of abuse, intimidation, and corruption do not rise. (Paragraph 196)

Traffic Regulation Orders

Checking Traffic Regulation Orders before taking on civil enforcement

61.  The state of Traffic Regulation Orders varies widely throughout the country. The Chief Parking Adjudicator for England and Wales is concerned, rightly, that some local authorities have failed to consolidate their Traffic Regulation Orders. This matters because the officials of the council need to have a clear legal basis for their traffic management work, and the public too needs to be able to see and understand the rules in a simple and straightforward text. The present position is most unsatisfactory, and those local authorities who are guilty of this maladministration need to remedy the position without delay. We expect to see prompt improvements reflected in future reports of the Chief Parking Adjudicator. (Paragraph 201)

62.  The Department for Transport appears not to regulate the state of Traffic Regulation Orders and their application systematically. We accept that the Department cannot be responsible for all Orders and signs throughout the country on a daily basis. But in a case where serious deficiencies are drawn to its attention we do expect the Department to be alert and to take vigorous action to ensure that corrections are made. The Department appears to have effectively ignored the concerns of the Chief Parking Adjudicator about Traffic Regulation Orders. (Paragraph 202)

63.  The Department must get much more actively involved in verifying that local authorities have compliant Traffic Regulation Orders before transferring enforcement powers to them from the police. The Department has a duty to be satisfied that the Traffic Regulation Orders and signage are adequate before approving schemes for implementation. It needs to discharge this duty properly. The foundation for a professional civil parking enforcement system, and its development into a force which commands the respect of the majority of road users, is attention to detail in sound administration. This is not 'headline grabbing' work, but it is essential. The Department has a crucial role here which it needs to discharge properly. (Paragraph 203)

Accurate and legal Traffic Regulation Orders

64.  Local authorities need to attend much more carefully to the parking adjudicators' rulings. Enforcement should be suspended at any site where a material flaw in the Traffic Regulation Order is identified, until such time as the problem is remedied. Where a council continues to enforce illegal Traffic Regulation Orders, the relevant parking adjudicator should give serious consideration to awarding costs against the council. In circumstances where a council has continually enforced an illegal Order, and has ignored the representations of the adjudicator, the local authority should be investigated for maladministration. (Paragraph 206)

Publicising Traffic Regulation Orders

65.  Details of Traffic Regulation Orders in force, and their purposes, must be routinely available on all local authority websites and in written form. The Department for Transport needs to do more to encourage and support local authorities in making this information more widely available. The Department must set out how its forthcoming statutory guidance will ensure that Traffic Regulation Orders receive sufficient publicity. (Paragraph 209)

Reviewing Traffic Regulation Orders

66.  Traffic Regulation Orders need to be properly maintained. We had evidence that this was not so. There are no consistent arrangements to review the appropriateness and effectiveness of Traffic Regulation Orders. This is not acceptable. Local authorities which have Orders that are deficient now need to take remedial action without delay. Thereafter, authorities should check the Orders annually and certify in the annual parking report that they are fit for purpose. Where significant changes in the locality are taking place, or where performance needs to be raised, action to amend the Orders should not be overlooked. Reviews should also cover the parking infrastructure of signs and lines which notify the public about the requirements of each Order. (Paragraph 212)

SIGNS AND LINES

67.  Signs and lines must be legally compliant, well-maintained and regularly checked. A revision of signage regulations is long overdue. Two years ago the Department for Transport commissioned the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) to report on how signage could be improved. But no action appears to have been taken. This is poor, and when the Government replies to this report we wish to be told why there has been no action so far. (Paragraph 215)

68.  The Department needs to produce good practice guidance on signage taking into account the TRL work. Good quality guidance on best practice in signage should be available to the local authority practitioners. The majority of motorists want to obey the rules. The signage should be made clear, and as well sited as possible, to enable them to do so. (Paragraph 216)

Signage in Controlled Parking Zones

69.  The Department for Transport and the local authorities need to review the use of Controlled Parking Zones. These Zones need to be signed taking full account of the requirement of the motorist for clear and helpful signage at the point of parking. This is not the case at present where the relevant regulations can be out of sight. This leads to confusion and frequently unintended breaches of the rules. Much more signage should be provided within and throughout Controlled Parking Zones, and not just on the boundaries. Drivers must have the best opportunity possible to understand what restrictions are in force before, and as, they park their vehicles. They should not need to walk half a mile to find the regulations. In the Government's response to this report, the Department should confirm that it will cover the treatment of Controlled Parking Zones in its forthcoming guidance. (Paragraph 218)

Loading and unloading

DEFINITIONS

70.  There is a pressing need to clarify the rules surrounding loading issues in the forthcoming statutory guidance. The Minister told us that the Department for Transport had decided not to undertake a consultation on the definition of loading in developing the new guidance on parking. There are currently no universally accepted definitions of 'loading' and 'unloading' however, and such definitions are required. The Department should therefore reverse its position and take the lead on clearing up the confusion through consultation with the haulage industry, police, residents, and local authorities. That definition must elucidate precisely what activities are covered. Once arrived at it should be widely publicised in the Department's guidance and by local authorities, and applied consistently across the country. Clearer guidance on a standardised 'observation period' (used by parking attendants to confirm loading and unloading activity) would also be helpful. (Paragraph 229)

Provision of loading capacity

71.  Traffic management is difficult where space is constrained and deliveries must be made. The demands of vehicles arriving to load and unload, the pressing need to keep the traffic flowing feely, guarding the quality of life for local residents, and the overriding objective of maintaining a safe environment for all road users, can seem daunting. Planning decisions should reflect a redoubled effort to ensure that the decisions on parking are able to be as realistic as possible. Adequate time must be given for vehicles to load and unload where this is essential. At the same time, those who abuse realistic rules by overstaying or delivering at prohibited times should be penalised heavily. Development control decisions on planning applications must be consistent with decisions taken on traffic and kerbside management. Local authorities should anticipate how planning policies will affect transport policies, and vice versa. (Paragraph 232)

'Cash and valuables in transit'

72.  The 'cash and valuables in transit' sector poses particularly acute safety risks, which can be exacerbated by some parking regulations. The then Minister's response that she was unaware of these particular problems did not reassure us that the Department for Transport has engaged fully with local authorities and the industry on this issue. The Department's new guidance must take account of the special problems of the security delivery sector. Local authorities must exercise discretion in considering how parking restrictions should be applied to bullion vehicles. (Paragraph 235)

Partnership working between local government and businesses

73.  Vehicle deliveries are essential to the economy. Provision for loading and unloading must be reviewed carefully by councils as part of their preparation for the adoption of civil parking enforcement. Thereafter there should be regular reviews at no more than five yearly intervals to ensure that the restrictions remain up-to-date and relevant. Strong communications and a partnership approach to loading problems between businesses, local authorities, residents and other users, has been shown to be helpful in resolving loading disputes. Not every problem can be resolved neatly; but more can be done to integrate vehicle deliveries better into the street environment. The Department for Transport's guidance should however encourage consultation and constructive relationships between different road users, residents, and local authorities in arriving at loading policies to suit local needs. (Paragraph 238)

Parking Strategies

Making the links between parking policies and wider transport policies

74.  Parking is neither primarily a source of finance to the local authority, nor is it an 'add on' to transport management. Parking management has the potential to help to enable us to manage our road system with sophistication, balancing a complex number of demands, reducing urban stresses, and mitigating congestion and the intrusion of traffic for local residents. But this vision is not yet being realised widely. In order to maximise the positive impact of parking policies and enforcement regimes on a council's transport objectives, it is essential that parking be properly planned and integrated into a comprehensive, clear, and local transport policy framework. (Paragraph 242)

PARKING AS A TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT TOOL

75.  Parking policies have for decades been one of the few immediately available and proven ways of controlling traffic and influencing travel behaviour. The gap in implementation of workplace parking levies by local authorities is disappointing. (Paragraph 244)

76.  We hope that parking schemes will benefit from Transport Innovation Fund resources. Such schemes may be less novel than road pricing schemes, but their potential to yield positive traffic management results immediately means that they should be encouraged. (Paragraph 246)

Guidance for local transport planning

Mayor of London's guidance on parking strategies

77.  Local authorities should concentrate enforcement activity on congestion hotspots, bus routes, and locations where offences increase road risk. Transport for London achieves this through an 'enforcement demand matrix'. We recommend other authorities examine this approach. (Paragraph 251)

GOOD PRACTICE GUIDANCE ON PARKING STRATEGIES

78.  We recommend to all local authorities, and in particular to those considering the introduction of a civil enforcement scheme, the use of the Institution of Highways and Transportation's 'best practice guidelines'. These can be used either to develop parking strategies for inclusion in local authorities' Local Transport Plans, or as 'stand alone' parking strategies. (Paragraph 253)

79.  We are concerned that present guidance from the Department for Transport on Local Transport Plans has effectively down-graded the priority of parking schemes. Future Local Transport Plan guidance from central Government should make it clear there is a need for detailed parking plans. It is not enough for the Department for Transport to rely on general statements. (Paragraph 254)

80.  The Plans should include testing performance indicators for parking which focus on actual compliance and high quality administration of parking enforcement, as recommended earlier in this report. It is not appropriate, given the creaking and inconsistent parking arrangements to be found throughout the country, that the Department appears to be slackening its grip instead of demanding higher standards, enhanced consistency, and more uniformity in this area. (Paragraph 255)

Parking accessibility

Pavement parking

81.  We accept that the problem of vehicles obstructing footpaths country-wide is a large one and a major effort would be required to enforce the law. But the 'do- nothing' response of the Department is no longer a credible option. To periodically examine what is widely accepted as a problem and then fail to take any positive measures is not the quality of response that the general public has a right to expect from the Department. (Paragraph 261)

82.  The Government must grip the problem of pavement parking once and for all and ensure that it is outlawed throughout the country, and not just in London. Councils should have the option of an 'opt-out' of a national pavement parking ban where this is vital, rather than relying on the use of individual Traffic Regulation Orders on specific streets and local Acts to impose a ban. That such an initiative will initially require additional resources to enforce is no excuse for allowing some pavements to continue to be swamped by cars and made inaccessible to large numbers of pedestrians. (Paragraph 262)

Road safety

83.  Parking on pedestrian crossings, 'zig-zag' lines, and outside school and hospital entrances, directly compromises the safety of some of the most vulnerable road users. Parking at corners, junctions and bus stops can similarly cause havoc and compromise public safety. Such parking contraventions are extremely serious and any enforcement regime needs to address them firmly. Parking strategies and enforcement operations must prioritise the safety of all road users. (Paragraph 263)

84.  Our objective must be to enhance the overall quality of our streets. Viewing parking as an important tool to achieve this - which includes both safety and environmental aspects - will help increase the chances of success. This is not a question of imposing arbitrary rules on neighbourhoods. The benefits to all need to be spelled out, and then followed through with sound and consistent enforcement policies. Without real leadership from the Department and commitment from local authorities, this will not be achieved. We need a more active and coordinated approach from the Department on this issue than we have detected to date. A 'zero tolerance' approach must be adopted towards those who through thoughtlessness or wilfulness seek to reduce the quality of the street environment. (Paragraph 265)

'Blue Badge' scheme

85.  There is widespread misuse of the 'Blue Badge' scheme which provides a range of parking benefits for people with certain disabilities. We congratulate those, including Liverpool City Council, whose efforts have revealed this abuse. The 'Blue Badge' scheme is a valuable initiative which must be preserved. But it must continue on a much sounder administrative footing. A national database of 'Blue Badge' holders would assist with delivering concessions, would enable proper enforcement of the scheme, and reduce the misuse of 'Blue Badges'. We recommend that the Department establish a national database of 'Blue Badge' holders. In its reply to this report the Department should indicate what assessment it has made of the cost of providing such a database. (Paragraph 269)

Parking space: capacity and demand

Residents' permit schemes

86.  We were astonished that less than half of available garages in the UK are used to park vehicles overnight. Discounting cars which are driven away from home at night and are parked legitimately elsewhere, many garages are clearly not being used for their proper purpose. Using garages would relieve on-street space pressures in local communities. (Paragraph 274)

87.  It will not be possible in all residential areas to meet the demand for parking. In these circumstances, resident permit schemes and waiting lists are important techniques local authorities can use to ration on-street parking and these should be pursued vigorously where there is a mismatch between capacity and demand. We also welcome the use of more innovative demand measures such as allowing car clubs priority parking. (Paragraph 275)

PLANNING POLICY GUIDANCE

88.  We did not receive sufficient evidence to make specific recommendations about planning policies in relation to parking provision. Controlling the overall provision of parking spaces is however clearly an important component of traffic management and land-use policy. It is also a tool in meeting Departmental aims to promote sustainable transport and to reduce reliance on the private car, and it must be given full weight by the Government in its overall transport policy. The Department for Transport should consider whether it is time for the Government to evaluate the success of the guidance on parking provision (contained in document PPG 13) and to assess how well it has been implemented in practice. (Paragraph 280)

Parking provision for 'Blue Badge' holders

89.  Local authorities must have regard to the needs of disabled people when planning parking provision. Customer satisfaction surveys with 'Blue Badge' holders should be undertaken to monitor how well provision meets requirements. Where significant changes to parking provision are proposed, access arrangements for people with disabilities must invariably receive full consideration. We look to the Department for Transport to see that the interests of people with disabilities are upheld strongly in all aspects of parking policy at national and local levels. (Paragraph 282)

Publicity and consultation

The importance of complying with parking regulations

90.  Non-compliance with parking controls is endemic in the UK. We had evidence that only about a tenth of parking contraventions result in a Penalty Charge Notice being issued. (Paragraph 283)

Raising awareness

91.  Many people see the point of sensible parking constraints without which management of our streets would be impossible. There are good grounds for believing that compliance with parking rules would be higher however if more people understood the reasons for having parking controls and associated enforcement. There is strong support in the transport sector for information strategies to achieve this result. All councils which embark on civil parking enforcement must undertake (and review subsequently) a thorough publicity campaign to raise levels of understanding about parking regulation and to promote public debate as to why compliance is important. Embarking on such a campaign only when public confidence in the enforcement regime is in tatters is not good enough. The Department for Transport must support public communications exercises, and should make appropriate publicity material available on a national basis. (Paragraph 288)

92.   When people are learning how to drive the importance of parking regulations should be an integral part of their instruction. The Department for Transport must explore whether more can be done to reinforce the message of responsible compliance as a part of driving instruction and the driving examination. Consideration should be given by the Department about whether there is scope for fuller advice on parking to be provided in the Highway Code. (Paragraph 289)

Consultation, consent, engagement

93.  The point of consultation about parking controls is that it should be a process and not a single event. This is because the needs of localities will change over time and controls will require updating. Consultation is not only a process of engagement with local people, but involves gaining continuing consent. Regular local consultation and evaluation are essential to achieve such a high level of legitimacy in parking regimes. The Department for Transport should ensure at the least that a commitment to consultation is made mandatory prior to the adoption of civil parking enforcement powers. It should promote a sophisticated approach to local consultations on parking. The success or failure of local authorities' parking measures depends upon a high level of local acceptance and active cooperation. (Paragraph 293)

Technology and databases

Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) register

CONTINUOUS VEHICLE REGISTRATION

94.  Parking enforcement is not possible without accurate records held by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA). The DVLA is striving to improve the quality of its records through the 'continuous registration' programme in which vehicles are either taxed or registered as being 'off road'. We strongly support this initiative and expect to see the Department for Transport provide it with the resources required to succeed. In its reply to this report the Department should confirm whether the DVLA's target to improve its vehicle record keeping records from 92 per cent to 97 per cent by 2007 will be met. (Paragraph 298)

ACCESS TO DVLA DATA

95.  We support the Government's consultation on the release of data from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency. The Department for Transport should confirm that the result of the consultation will be made public. So far as parking policy and enforcement is concerned, there must be no access to the Agency's register on the part of third parties that would result in activities which run counter to improving the overall quality of the parking regime in force in this country. This means, for example, that those who are seeking the information to operate 'cowboy' clamping operations on private land must be denied information from the register. The Department must guarantee that the public are properly protected from abuse of this information, and that any loopholes allowing unscrupulous parking enforcement activity will be closed. (Paragraph 301)

New technologies for parking

TECHNOLOGY FOR ENFORCEMENT

96.  The use of digital cameras to provide photographic evidence of parking offences is a step in the right direction. Provision by councils of such evidence to motorists at the first opportunity when a challenge has been made, will save time and costs associated with subsequent correspondence and possible appeals. (Paragraph 305)

97.  We support applying civil enforcement measures to moving traffic offences throughout the country, for example, stopping in bus lanes. These measures are designed to improve traffic management on congested streets and keep the traffic moving. Councils must ensure however that, as is particularly important with fresh initiatives in street and road traffic management, the regulations in force are carefully and clearly communicated to drivers. The new measures must also be carefully evaluated for success or failure. (Paragraph 307)

TECHNOLOGY FOR PROCESSING TICKETS

98.  A number of technologies designed to improve the quality of parking operations were brought to our attention. We welcome these initiatives and wish to see more use being made of technology. Extensive use of effective and well trialled technology will bring benefits to motorists, local communities, and council enforcement activities. Local authorities should be encouraged by the Department for Transport to invest in the new technologies. (Paragraph 309)

99.  We wish to know from the Department how the research for technologies to aid parking enforcement is organised; what role the Department has in identifying and trialling potentially useful new technologies; and what guidance there will be to local authorities to ensure that practice over the country in the use of technology to support parking is uniform where possible, economies of scale are achieved, best practice is shared, and the repetition of mistakes avoided. (Paragraph 310)

Conclusion

100.  Parking policy and enforcement is at root about encouraging mutual respect and tolerance on the streets of every city, town and village in the country. It is an aspect of our environment which affects everyone. Its deficiencies will adversely affect the lives of each one of us. It is therefore important that the Government, local authorities, and citizens work together for parking solutions which are sensible, fair, uniform in their essentials, but which are as responsive as possible to the wide variety of local requirements throughout the country. (Paragraph 311)

101.  The development of good, imaginative parking policies is not a 'headline grabbing' activity. It involves the cooperation of national and local government and citizens, and relies for its policy articulation and enforcement fundamentally on steady, unspectacular, and sound administration: in other words, the essence of 'good government'. Unfortunately, what we found all too often was not 'good government' but inconsistent, poor, and creaking administration, lack of drive for reform, poor communications, confusion, and a lack of accountability. It is a serious indictment of the Government, the Department for Transport, and the local authorities that we have found this to be the case. (Paragraph 312)

102.  Nevertheless, the Department for Transport's intention to produce draft statutory guidance on decriminalised parking enforcement affords an excellent opportunity to set matters on the right lines, and this must be seized. The forthcoming action needs to go beyond a mere revision of guidance however. It must take the present inconsistent and confused arrangements for parking nationally and dovetail them into a system fit for a major country in the 21st century. (Paragraph 313)

103.  Our work has shown that a revitalised parking system needs to demonstrate the following characteristics:

    There must be one system of parking, not two. Decriminalised parking needs to be implemented throughout the country. It is absurd that if a motorist commits a parking offence on one street the offence will be dealt with by the police and the criminal court, while in a neighbouring decriminalised area, the same contravention will be handled by the local council as a civil infringement according to different procedures.

    Performance standards need to be established and achieved. The statutory guidance and the regulations which are due to be published shortly by the Department for Transport must establish a clear set of performance criteria which civil parking enforcement operations must meet. This is a key opportunity for the Department to promote a consistently high quality of operations throughout the country

    It must be made clearer to drivers what regulations are in force and how compliance is to be achieved. Enforcement operations should be 'firm but fair'. Local authorities must make it as easy as possible for drivers to understand and comply with the parking regulations in force. This will be achieved by ensuring that Traffic Regulation Orders are legal and relevant to local needs, and that the regulations are implemented through comprehensible and high quality on-street information

    Appropriate recruitment, remuneration and training should ensure a professional parking service throughout the country. The Department's statutory guidance should require all councils and contractors to pursue recruitment and training practices that are set out in detail to ensure a professional approach to parking enforcement work. Operational staff must be well informed about the regulations they enforce and have the necessary expertise and communication skills. Salaries should match equivalently responsible roles within other fields of local government. They should not have to work with the stigma of being 'hate figures'

    The process for challenging and appealing penalty charge notices must be made clear. Where drivers are issued with a Penalty Charge Notice, we expect the Department's guidance to require that councils make completely clear on the ticket (or on accompanying documentation) the process for paying the penalty charge; and the rights of the motorist to challenge the ticket through representations to the council and ultimately through the process of appeal to an independent adjudicator. An efficient and professional approach to dealing with representations would do a great deal to enhance legitimacy and would reduce a major source of frustration and anger among motorists

    The status and profile of the parking adjudication service needs to be strengthened. Reforms are required which reinforce the independence of the service, the adequacy of its outreach to the public with the objective of embedding it much more firmly at the centre of the decriminalised parking service than is the case at present

    Scrutiny of local authority parking departments needs to be strengthened. There must be proper scrutiny of local authority parking operations by the Department for Transport and the Audit Commission. Allegations that parking enforcement operations are skewed towards maximising revenue rather than achieving traffic management objectives must be tackled head-on. Local authorities should publish an annual break down of their parking operations. This should include financial information and progress against performance indicators, such as compliance rates, efficiency in dealing with representations and outcomes of appeals

    Local authorities should be required to develop parking strategies which meet local objectives, focusing particularly on congestion, road safety and accessibility. These strategies should follow the best practice guidance available and they should appear reasonable and fair both to motorists and others who live and work in the area. Parking controls are essential to such strategies in a motorised society; and good enforcement of carefully made regulations is in the interest of everyone. (Paragraph 314)

104.  These points are easy to set down. They will be trickier to implement. Radical improvements will not be achieved overnight. The cardinal point is that the Department must not miss this opportunity to coordinate a 'step-change' in parking enforcement arrangements in the country. There must be no delay. But equally we do not want to see draft guidance emerge which ignores, or otherwise fails to tackle, the fundamental problems of the present system. (Paragraph 315)



 
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