Transport Committee - Minutes of EvidenceHC 118

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Oral Evidence

Taken before the Transport Committee

on Monday 10 June 2013

Members present:

Mrs Louise Ellman (Chair)

Karen Lumley

Karl McCartney

Adrian Sanders

Iain Stewart

Graham Stringer


Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Patrick Troy, Chief Executive, British Parking Association, and Shanaaz Carroll, Deputy Chief Executive, Association of Town & City Management, gave evidence.

Q1 Chair: Good afternoon and welcome to the Transport Select Committee. Would you please give your name and organisation?

Patrick Troy: I am Patrick Troy. I am chief executive of the British Parking Association.

Shanaaz Carroll: I am Shanaaz Carroll, deputy chief executive of the Association of Town & City Management.

Q2 Chair: The introduction of new regulations under the Traffic Management Act five years ago was supposed to result in a sea change in parking enforcement. Do you think that has happened? What changes have those regulations made?

Patrick Troy: The Traffic Management Act did change some things but not substantially. As the Committee probably knows, those regulations had been in place for some time-certainly in London since 1993, and towards the end of the 1990s in the rest of England and Wales. The Traffic Management Act was a kind of consolidation Act and brought in some changes to the way that local authorities operated under what became known as their civil parking enforcement powers.

The primary change, probably, was that the Act introduced the network management duty on local authorities. It created a traffic manager in local authorities. Parking management is very much a part of traffic management. Parking enforcement needs to be seen in the light of that network management duty.

Some more detailed changes related to things like the introduction of differential penalties, which introduced some proportionality into parking enforcement. The idea was that, if you parked on a yellow line, you received a higher penalty than if you overstayed in a car park. That reflected the proportionality. It also introduced the concept of an annual report for local authorities to submit. It did not make that mandatory; it is a voluntary activity. A number of local authorities took up that responsibility.

Finally, it introduced the concept of using camera enforcement for parking. It had already been in place in London but that rolled it out to the rest of the country. On the whole, I do not think the Traffic Management Act was perhaps a sea change, to use your term. It tidied up some issues and left some issues unresolved.

Q3 Chair: Ms Carroll, how do you see it? Do you think that the new regulations have meant a sea change and do you think that parking is seen as something fair and transparent?

Shanaaz Carroll: I do not have any particular expertise around the Traffic Management Act. So I can’t really add anything to what my colleague has said.

Q4 Chair: Would you say that local authorities are following the new system? Do either of you have any comment on that?

Patrick Troy: I would say that largely they are. Certainly it would be unlawful not to because, in simple terms, the Act places on them some responsibilities with which they have to comply. The difficulty is that the Act came with some operational guidance, which, of course, by definition was not statutory. Some local authorities have observed that and some perhaps not so. If they are not able to comply with operational guidance, they have to indicate why they cannot. It is not always that clear with all local authorities. One example might be the publication of the annual report that I referred to earlier. On the whole, I think it has brought some consistency to the way authorities act, and in that sense, yes, they are complying.

Q5 Chair: What is the importance of the annual report?

Patrick Troy: The importance is transparency. It provides local authorities with the opportunity to set out why they carry out their parking enforcement responsibilities, some of the activities around that in terms of how they go about ensuring that their residents and electorate understand the reasons for parking enforcement, and perhaps crucially, in terms of the controversy around parking enforcement, how they spend any surplus that they generate. That is quite an important point. The law requires that local authorities only spend their surplus in certain ways. It is important that the public understand the value of how they spend their money should they make a surplus. It is worth saying as an aside that many local authorities do not make a surplus, despite what the media might have us believe. In fact, very few authorities are in surplus on their parking enforcement.

Q6 Chair: How many are in surplus?

Patrick Troy: Part of the problem is that those statistics are not collected by Government. If the local authority does not produce an annual report, it is not possible to identify the answer to that question. London is different because it collects that data directly from London boroughs. In London, I think 12 out of the 32 London boroughs are in deficit on their enforcement. It is important to make a distinction here. We are talking about the number of penalty charge notices issued and the cost of issuing them as against the income that is derived from those notices. We are purely looking here at enforcement. On that calculation, 12 London boroughs in the last year were in deficit.

If you look at the overall accounts, you will see that most of the London boroughs are in surplus. That is because, in publishing their accounts, they take into account other parking income-for example, from residents’ parking and on-street charging. It is important to make that distinction. The annual report allows local authorities to set out what I have just said in a very transparent way.

Q7 Chair: How many authorities produce an annual report? You said that they don’t all do that.

Patrick Troy: Not as many as one would like. There are no statistics again on this. The organisation called PATROL, which operates the traffic adjudication service outside London, runs an award for the best annual report. They get something like 30 to 40 applicants per year for that. I do not think it is probably much more than 50 or 60 who actually produce an annual report.

Q8 Chair: Is that a guess that you are making?

Patrick Troy: That is a guess, yes.

Q9 Karl McCartney: On a point that you mentioned, and taking parking as an entity in the round, you said that you thought some London boroughs might not be making money per se out of drivers. Roughly how many out of 33, including the City, might that be? Can you extrapolate that nationally? Do you think there are some councils that are not making money out of charging people to park their cars as well as enforcing those parking charges?

Patrick Troy: Absolutely. If you include the whole package of enforcement and income derived from on-street meters, permits and so on-

Karl McCartney: And car parks owned by the councils.

Patrick Troy: The problem here is that car parks are often kept in a different account by local authorities because they are not required to include their off-street income with their on-street income. They necessarily divide those two. Again, there is no data to back this up because they are kept in those two separate accounts, but I would say that probably in London the local authorities wash their face in terms of their parking activities. Outside London, probably a number of the metropolitan authorities do likewise, but when you start to look at the smaller towns and district councils that is probably not the case. They probably run their accounts in a deficit position.

Karl McCartney: I think we are going to disagree about that then, but you are the expert and that is why I asked you the question.

Q10 Karen Lumley: We have these traffic people in our town, but there is a perception in our town that they are incentivised to book people. Is that the case? Are they allowed to do that?

Patrick Troy: No; that is unlawful. If any local authority were doing that, they would be breaking the law. It is as simple as that. They have very clear responsibilities when it comes to parking enforcement in relation to their powers. They are to carry out parking enforcement solely for the purpose of managing congestion and issues akin to that, such as improving road safety, encouraging more sustainable forms of transport and so on. There is no power to issue penalty charge notices for the purposes of raising revenue, and that does not happen.

At the BPA, to try to ensure that that message is got across, we have developed a model contract. Most local authorities outsource their enforcement. Of course, another misunderstanding is that the private sector is then incentivised to issue as many tickets as possible to boost their profit line. In fact, the service providers don’t benefit from the penalty charge notices that are issued; it is the local authority that receives the income. Our model contract makes clear that the responsibility of the service provider is to deliver a service in accordance with some KPIs, none of which relate to the generation of revenue or the issue of tickets.

Q11 Mr Sanders: Have you done any work on the difference between parking charges in the town and parish council areas and unitary and metropolitan areas?

Patrick Troy: I did not hear the first part of that.

Mr Sanders: Have you done any work-

Patrick Troy: Any analysis.

Mr Sanders: -on the difference in what is charged in town and parish councils and what is charged in unitary and metropolitan councils?

Patrick Troy: Not specifically, no. As a membership organisation many of those authorities are members, but of course we don’t ask them to show us their accounts.

Q12 Mr Sanders: But are you not aware that the only free parking you are ever likely to find is probably in a town or parish council area? It is unlikely to be in a unitary or metropolitan area. There is a very obvious reason why that is. It is because of the local government finance system and the fact that the town and parish council precepts a rate that can be spent on car parking or not car parking-in other words, they do not need to raise the revenue-whereas the metropolitan and the unitary councils do not have much fiscal independence above setting the council tax and car park charges. If you looked at local government finance, you might find a lot of allies in the Local Government Association for your campaigns.

Patrick Troy: Yes, indeed, and we work very closely with the Local Government Association. What you say is true, but it is more complex than that.

Mr Sanders: I am sure it is.

Patrick Troy: Parking is very much subject to the laws of supply and demand. The more people want to go to the cities and the less space there is in the cities, the higher the parking charges will be, simply because those authorities need to ration space through the price mechanism.

Q13 Mr Sanders: I am not against charging for parking. There are lots of good environmental and health reasons to do so. On the other hand, every pound in a parking meter is one pound less in the till of a local business. There are several sides to be weighed up, are there not?

Patrick Troy: Yes, that is right. That is why we would always encourage local authorities in those situations to work very closely with the businesses and the retailers in those towns.

Q14 Mr Sanders: But, whenever I have argued this with a local authority, they simply say to me, "I am sorry, but if you keep cutting our grant from central Government we are going to charge wherever we can." They do tend to charge at the top end and not the bottom end.

Patrick Troy: There is one important point I would make on that. In terms of their car park provision, they are often in competition with the private sector here. If they charge too much, as you say, at the top end, they run the risk of losing money because motorists will start to use other car parks that are potentially cheaper. It is certainly the case that motorists do not make their parking decisions purely based on price. They base it on things like quality, accessibility and safety. Clearly, a local authority who is providing parking in a situation where the private sector is also providing parking needs to take that into account, otherwise they are simply going to lose out.

Q15 Mr Sanders: Do you know of any areas where the private sector has more car parking spaces than the local authority in any given council area? That would probably determine whether it is the local authority price that determines the private sector price or the other way round.

Patrick Troy: Yes, that is true. I can’t think of any off the top of my head, but there are certainly a number that are equal in their provision. I wouldn’t say the competition is fierce, but often you will find that local authorities work with private providers to ensure that they are delivering the service to the local community and to the traders. That is why it is really important to have this partnership arrangement in towns.

Q16 Karl McCartney: I am going to be helpful to Mr Troy in two ways. It might be a cartel you are referring to there. Lincoln is an example where private parking is perhaps more on offer than the rest locally. I want to ask Ms Carroll a question and give Mr Troy a break.

In Lincolnshire, there are a couple of towns where there are no parking charges. How many are there across the country, and, in your role or your organisation, do you recommend that it is a good thing to do-that local towns don’t have parking charges? There is obviously the Mary Portas scheme in Market Rasen, which famously does not charge for parking and, one presumes, does quite well out of that.

Shanaaz Carroll: I am afraid I can’t tell you the number of authorities that don’t charge across the country. In a number of the Portas pilot areas, the town teams there are trialling free parking offers. It is not necessarily all-day parking but maybe 10p after 3 o’clock to try and stimulate and encourage footfall into the town centre at less busy times.

In terms of whether or not we, as an organisation, feel that there should be free parking, we very much feel that it is about the offer that is there. Patrick has already mentioned the accessibility and safety of parking and so on, but the offer in the town has to be right as well. If people feel that they are getting value for that parking charge, then they will be more inclined to go there. If they do not feel that they are getting value, then that is where it possibly becomes an issue for them.

I would also say that I don’t think there is such a thing as a free parking space. There is always a cost associated with it, be it through the maintenance and upkeep of those parking spaces that a local authority or a private provider provides. That is the upkeep as well as the provision of it. Somewhere, somebody is paying.

Q17 Karl McCartney: Surely that might be a decision for a business improvement district or organisation, whatever you might call it, to take the hit for that cost rather than a local government organisation.

Shanaaz Carroll: Yes, and some areas do take that hit, as you say. In one of the Portas areas in Braintree, it is the local authority that is taking that hit. They have offered 10p after 3 o’clock. It is very much done in partnership with local businesses. Some of the businesses on a particular scheme that we, at ATCM, are looking at, at the moment, are working with an organisation called MoLo. It is smartphone and smartcard technology. You can get parking validation. If you go into a shop and buy a coffee, you might get 50p off your parking. Sometimes that provides better value to the customer than receiving a free cup of coffee once you have bought 12. There are some examples, and there will be more and more as the technology takes us forward.

Q18 Karl McCartney: In relation to parking in the evening, say, after 6 o’clock, in your organisation’s experience or how perhaps you advise local government organisations at whichever level, is that a good or a bad thing? Do you think we should take the Westminster model?

Shanaaz Carroll: Again, it depends on what the offer is and the issues about safety and accessibility. We run a network for the night-time economy. We also run something called Purple Flag, which is an accreditation programme but it is very much about partnership. It is all the different stakeholders coming together to support the night-time economy in the town centre. If that means offering reduced parking or some free spaces after dark, that is a decision for them.

Q19 Karl McCartney: Do you think, if parking is to be paid for after 6 o’clock, that that dissuades people from coming in and enjoying the night-time economy of an area?

Shanaaz Carroll: Again, it is dependent upon the town, what it is offering and what people see as value coming into that town centre. They could potentially get parking validation as well through some of those night-time businesses. There are different ways to do it, but the key message is about doing it in partnership with all the different stakeholders.

Q20 Iain Stewart: I would like to ask about the issue of signage. Following the Department for Transport’s review of signage for parking restrictions, do you think there is still a problem of inadequate or confused signage?

Patrick Troy: It is a difficult question. My answer directly would be that I think we have the best signage in the world in this country. You only have to look at other countries to see that that is the case. We take signage very seriously as a nation and it is in our culture to do so. Signage on the street is sometimes almost too good for its own good, in the sense that traffic engineers will always want to make sure that parking controls are signed properly. Sometimes, as a result, you get more signs than you need. In recent times, the Government’s approach to this has been to encourage a decluttering of signage. I would certainly be in support of that because it makes it clearer for motorists.

Generally, signage is well understood by the motoring public. I don’t think we give enough credit to the public for the fact that they do understand signage very clearly. A very small minority get caught out when they park in a particular location and don’t understand the signage, but it is a very tiny minority. That is not to be complacent about it, but we should always recognise that there is a silent majority of motorists out there who understand signage very clearly and understand where to park and where not to park, and comply accordingly.

In terms of enforcement in relation to signage, I always think there are two types of motorist who end up getting a parking ticket. One is the accidental motorist and one is the opportunist motorist. The opportunist motorist is very difficult to deal with because they will always try their luck-try their hand, if you like. What we can do more about is the accidental offender, if I can use that term-people who park where they are not that clear where they should and shouldn’t park. Local authorities should not rest on their laurels until they have eliminated that type of problem as far as they possibly can.

Q21 Iain Stewart: It is interesting that you raise that. I am going to declare an interest because at one time I was done for parking. It was a genuine error. Where I was parking, the majority of it was pay and display. There were half a dozen bays that were for residents only. If you looked really carefully, the signage was there but you had to hunt through tree branches to find the sign. I bought my ticket and got the notice on the windscreen. I appealed saying, "I wasn’t trying to evade; here is my ticket." I just got a pure jobsworth letter back saying, "It was your responsibility to check," blah, blah, blah. That is just one example.

Going back to what you said earlier, how do you encourage local authorities to be a bit more amenable to the accidental offender?

Patrick Troy: The obvious way of dealing with that is to bring in here the parking adjudicator, who has a role to oversee this kind of activity. If it was unreasonable for you to have seen that sign-if it really was not that clear-you would like to think that the local authority would recognise that. I recognise it is not always the case that they will, but the parking adjudicator has a role to see whether or not it is fair for you to have incurred that PCN and be required to pay it. If the adjudicator finds in the motorists’ favour enough times, then local authorities obviously need to take account of that. There is no value in them continuing to issue PCNs in situations where they are losing those cases at appeal. There is a mechanism there to address that.

It is not entirely satisfactory because, of course, it might be several months before those processes feed through the system. All local authorities have a responsibility to maintain signage properly on the highway. Local politicians and local people have a role to draw that to officers’ attention who are responsible for maintaining those signs.

Q22 Iain Stewart: Where authorities have a parking adjudicator in place, do you have any statistics for how often they take the side of the motorist?

Patrick Troy: Yes. It is roughly 50:50, and it has been for some time. To put it into perspective, only about 1% of parking tickets issued end up at the parking adjudicator. That is an important thing to say, because in another situation from the one you have just relayed you may well find that the local authority has exercised its discretion and cancelled the ticket. Roughly about 20% of motorists appeal their tickets to the local authority and the local authority cancels about half of those. We never hear about those. That is where the local authority has exercised its discretion, has acted properly and has listened to the motorist’s case. A tiny minority-1%-end up at the adjudication. That is where the motorist and the local authority cannot agree. The adjudicator is there to arbitrate between them. It tends to end up about 50:50.

Iain Stewart: I obviously got them on a bad day.

Q23 Graham Stringer: Don’t you think that central Government should just get out of this area completely?

Patrick Troy: Yes; there is a case for that. We are certainly conscious that there is some confusion at the moment, particularly between London and the rest of the country. In London, central Government is far less involved. Outside London, it is a little bit more involved. That seems peculiar and odd. We have been encouraging the Government, for example, to devolve the responsibility for setting the penalty charge level to a local level, as happens in London. We have been encouraging the Government to look at footway parking, which is bizarre in this country. In London, we have a footway parking ban, but you are allowed to put signs up to permit parking. Outside London, you are allowed to park on a footway unless signs say you can’t. There is this confusion between London and the rest of the country, which really isn’t helpful. It is driven by central Government continuing to be involved in parking enforcement outside London. So, yes, I think there is a case for that.

Q24 Graham Stringer: That is an interesting answer. It seems to me that, when you are dealing with all the competition there is for a small amount of space between pedestrians, cars, buses, the use of businesses and concerns about the environment, it is difficult enough balancing those competing interests when you are on the spot without the Government trying to determine what the policies should be. My view is that the Government should get out of it. You have accepted that point.

Would you also agree in terms of fine levels that there is fundamentally nothing wrong with the local authority making a surplus out of that, or do you think it should just cover the administrative costs?

Patrick Troy: As I say, if you simply look at the penalty charge income that a local authority receives, it often does not pay for its enforcement operation. It makes up the difference from other charges. In the generality, yes, it certainly should be right that the local authority can retain its surplus and spend it on those areas of transport that the legislation allows them to spend it on.

I have always felt that that was a good bit of the legislation. If the surplus could simply be spent on anything, then I think it would rightly receive significant criticism from the public that local authorities were revenue-raising in order to fund education, social services and so on. The fact that it is ring-fenced so that it can only be spent on car parks, the maintenance of car parks and subsidising public transport seems to make sense. Once people understand that and that is what local authorities are doing-and it comes back to the transparency point on the annual reports-they would accept it much more.

Q25 Graham Stringer: The point I am making and the question I am asking is, what is wrong in constrained times with raising surplus revenue from people who have broken the rules? After all, national Government raise billions and billions of extra pounds from the motorist in taxation on petrol, which is used to fund the health service and education. Why shouldn’t local authorities be able to make the judgment about what will be of benefit to other services in the way that central Government does?

Patrick Troy: The danger-and it is a clear risk that has come to be in the world of parking enforcement, if I can put it that way-is that local authorities will then issue penalty charge notices willy-nilly and there is no control on how they issue them. The accusation will be that they are only issuing them to generate that revenue. There would need to be some control around that particular element of parking income, because clearly enforcement should only be to achieve the objectives I mentioned earlier around congestion and so on. As long as that is clear, then, yes, it is up to individual local authorities to determine their own fate in how they manage their parking. Every local authority is different.

Q26 Graham Stringer: That is really the point.

Patrick Troy: Yes, absolutely. They will all determine their own parking policies and have different views about how they manage their parking stock. Not only are they different in the way they approach it, but they are different in the amount of car parking facilities that they have. One of the points I would make on that is that there is a whole host of multi-storey car parks in this country now that were built in the 1960s and 1970s that are coming to the end of their lives. A lot of money needs to be spent on them if we are not to find car parks closing because they are dangerous, with the impact that will have on town centres that are trying to emerge from recession. It is even more important that local authorities have access to some source of funding to make sure that that particular problem is addressed.

Q27 Graham Stringer: An interesting innovation, which is really a business tax, is the Workplace Parking Levy scheme. The only one I am familiar with through this Committee is the Nottingham one. I do not know if there are any others. Do you think that has worked well in Nottingham?

Patrick Troy: Yes. My understanding is that it is only in Nottingham at the moment. It presents us with quite an interesting opportunity as a country. The Workplace Parking Levy is saying that, if you can control the destination of a journey, you can control the journey itself. The other end of the pole, if you like, is the congestion charging scheme in London, which attempts to control the journey. WPL controls the end of the journey. If you can control the end of the journey, you can manage congestion that much better. It is early days for that. The scheme in Nottingham is just a year old.

The flipside of that is to ensure that it does not impact adversely on business, does not affect inward investment to the town that has introduced the scheme, and does not affect property values in an adverse way. The jury is out until the end of this pilot in Nottingham.

From the point of view of an organisation such as mine, which is all about raising standards in car parks, it can be quite a good thing. If employees have to pay for their parking in a way that they have not had to in the past, they will start to demand higher standards in car parks. They might have put up with the potholes and the poor lighting when they had a free space, but once they have to pay for it they start to demand a higher standard, more safety and better enforcement and so on. In that sense it does have some value. I think these are interesting times.

Q28 Chair: Ms Carroll, do we need more car parking in town centres to encourage business and make those town centres more viable, or does more car parking create more congestion?

Shanaaz Carroll: There needs to be a balanced approach. Parking needs to be looked at in the context of an overall transport policy for the area. If you have a local plan, the transport plan and policy can feed into that. If areas have good public transport, then car-borne journeys aren’t necessarily so prevalent. Certainly in London there is a lot more evidence. In a review done by London councils, it shows that people tend to make journeys by public transport because the network is far greater and it is better connected. Therefore, they can make those journeys to town centres. I do not think it can be looked at in isolation. It has to be looked at in the context of what else is being done to stimulate the town centre, what the offer is, the quality of offer, the types of businesses and all the other transport mechanisms that there are. I do not think I can say definitely that more car parks is the be-all and end-all for town centres.

Q29 Chair: But you think it is generally true that there needs to be more space for cars to park in town centres to make them more vibrant and viable. Are there any places where you think that is true?

Shanaaz Carroll: It is very difficult to say that any particular type of area needs any more car parks because the individual needs of each town need weighing up. Only the local partners can do that together. Businesses may be able to offer different solutions. For instance, home delivery might be an option that local businesses can offer, therefore negating the need for people to drive their cars, meaning that they can travel by public transport. It has to be looked at in the context of the overall town centre and the different things that it has to offer. I don’t think I can say that any particular area would greatly benefit from increased car parking.

I would also think that cars need to be weighed up in terms of the public space and pedestrian facilities that there are, and the different balance between the car and the pedestrian, as to whether or not people feel that the town is friendly and accessible to them.

Q30 Chair: Do businesses have particular problems in being able to park?

Patrick Troy: One of the issues that businesses will always have is that, on the one hand, you have the needs of their customers and, on the other, you have the need for deliveries. Of course there is a conflict between the two. In terms of on-street parking spaces, you will have a conflict between providing for the customer, particularly in smaller shopping centres where the turnover of parking spaces is higher, and the need for deliveries to take place at the same time. Of course, an easy way round that is for the deliveries to take place at a different time, but that is not always feasible.

Local authorities are pretty mindful of this issue and this conflict. That is why you have a number of towns around the country providing loading bays, for example, in town centres, specifically available for the use of freight vehicles that need to make those deliveries. We need to get the regulations right on this, by the way. Recently, the adjudicator determined that Blue Badge holders could park in loading bays. That is something that the Department was not aware of and didn’t believe was right, but nevertheless that has happened. It demonstrates this conflict between the needs of different users in town centres and the problems that can create. Again, it always comes back to working with the businesses and traders in the town to make sure that that provision is as right as possible, but it will always be a compromise.

Q31 Chair: Does the current adjudication service work properly or should the different tribunals be combined?

Patrick Troy: I think they work well. The adjudicators are fiercely independent. There have often been questions around their independence, but I would say they are fiercely independent, and in the last couple of years the Court of Appeal has determined and confirmed that that is the case. Whether or not they should be combined is an interesting question, simply because the way that the adjudication services work is quite complex. They are actually established under section 101 of the Local Government Act 1972, which provides for local authorities to determine how a service like that should be provided. It is the local authorities that come together and say, "Let’s provide a service that meets all our needs." Of course, it makes sense for them to come together in this respect and provide a service for all authorities in a particular location.

It is history that has divided the London adjudication service from the adjudication service in the rest of the country. I do not think per se that is a problem. What might be a problem is that the level of service from the two adjudication services is different and that is not helpful to the public. What is more important is that those services provide a similar level of access to their services. As long as they do that, I don’t think that whether they-

Q32 Chair: Are they doing that?

Patrick Troy: Broadly they are. I would say that one is ahead of the other in some areas and the other in other areas. There is some work that could be done around that in, for example, telephone appeals and making it easier for motorists to access the service. I think each can learn from the other. I would certainly like to see that happening more.

Q33 Chair: How is technology changing parking issues?

Patrick Troy: I would say technology has hugely changed parking issues and the legislation has not kept up with it.

Q34 Chair: Could you give us some examples?

Patrick Troy: Yes, certainly. Probably the best example is in relation to camera enforcement. The legislation allows for some camera enforcement in some locations in relation to parking and moving traffic enforcement. But, rather oddly, it does not allow it in car parks. We have a situation where, last year, the Government introduced the Protection of Freedoms Act, which included provision for the management of parking on private land and legitimised the use of ANPR and CCTV cameras in private car parks, but, in the local authority sector, local authorities are not permitted to use cameras in their car parks. That is completely confusing for the public. It would be quite difficult for most of the public to understand the difference between a privately managed car park and a publicly managed car park. To most of us it is just a public car park, and yet the legislation has not kept up with the technology so we find ourselves in that kind of situation.

There are lots of examples of where the technology has helped the public. The best example I can think of is in relation to something that has come about in the last 10 years, which is paying for parking using your mobile phone. The value of that is that it is very convenient for the motorist. They do not have to feed the meter. They can buy their parking time using their mobile phone, and 90% or so of us have mobile phones now. Additionally, what many phone providers and local authorities provide is the facility whereby, if you park in a parking space for, let us say, two hours, and you are just coming to the end of your two hours, the phone provider will text you to say, "Do you know your time is nearly up? Do you want to top up or do you think you ought to get back to your car to move it?" A lot of local authorities have embraced that principle, which gives a bit of a lie to the argument that it is all about issuing penalty charge notices. If that were true, the phone providers would be texting the civil enforcement officers to go along and issue a penalty charge notice.

Q35 Chair: How many local authorities are doing that?

Patrick Troy: Pretty much most of London now do that.

Q36 Chair: What about outside London?

Patrick Troy: Outside London, most of the metropolitan areas are embracing it in one way or another. It is a bit patchy, and that is part of the problem in London. It is patchy in the sense that it is up to each local authority to decide, and sometimes they will use different providers. There is some work to be done to try to co-ordinate that, but it is becoming more the norm as pretty much everyone-certainly the younger generation-has access to mobile technology.

Q37 Chair: Ms Carroll, do you want to comment on this issue? Has technology affected parking enforcement?

Shanaaz Carroll: I don’t think enforcement, but I would like to reiterate that near field communications technology will most definitely provide added value to people visiting town centres. They could potentially get that parking validation where some of the businesses come on board to help pay for their parking and then the price of parking might not be seen as such an issue.

Chair: Thank you very much to both of you for coming and answering our questions.

Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Edmund King, President, The AA, Jo Abbott, Communications Manager, RAC Foundation, and Peter Ashford, Director, National Motorists Action Group, gave evidence.

Q38 Chair: Good afternoon and welcome to the Transport Select Committee. Would you give your name and organisation, please?

Peter Ashford: I am Peter Ashford, Director, National Motorists Action Group.

Jo Abbott: I am Jo Abbott from the RAC Foundation.

Edmund King: I am Edmund King, President of the Automobile Association and visiting professor at Newcastle university.

Q39 Chair: Is parking enforcement now seen as fair and transparent?

Edmund King: In some ways parking enforcement has got a lot better, and, with thanks to this Committee, things like wheel clamping on private land have finally been outlawed, which has made a vast improvement and certainly reduced the number of complaints that we get. That has led to some other issues of tickets on private land but those are being addressed elsewhere.

When it comes to on-street parking, it may seem pretty obvious but, if a car has nowhere to park, the use of that car is made pretty redundant. It is essential for drivers; it is not an optional extra. The issues we tend to get about on-street parking are still around fairly basic things like lack of clarity of signs. That is still something that comes up. You may well find a sign that has one set of instructions for residents and the times they can and can’t park mixed up with times for visitors. I have to say, despite being a visiting professor of transport at Newcastle university, that when I last went to Harrogate I needed a PhD in parking signs to work it out. I could not work out if I could park on that road. The signs were confusing. I still think that there is some way to go to improve the clarity of signs.

As we heard from Mr Stewart before, some people legitimately get caught out. That is where the system does not work. You should not have to go to adjudication because you have bought a pay-and-display ticket but because of an unclear sign you have received a penalty. If you have bought a pay-and-display ticket, it is obvious that you were going to pay for it. The onus on the motorist always to go to adjudication is not fair. Often motorists are scared to do that because they are worried that they will lose the discount that they might otherwise get. We get calls all the time. A lot of motorists who feel that they have been penalised unfairly do not go through the process and go to adjudication because they are worried that they will end up paying more. There are things around that that could be clarified without it going to the level of adjudication.

Q40 Chair: How often do you think that people don’t go to adjudication because they are worried they will pay more?

Edmund King: From the complaints that we get at the AA and the people we talk to, having listened to the evidence, sometimes we have to say to them quite clearly, "You shouldn’t have parked there because it is signed." Nowadays we can quite often check. You can go on Google Maps from your office, zoom in and look at the lines. I would say that, from the people to whom we talk who we think have a good case, at least half of them end up just paying up because they don’t want the hassle of it. I think that is unfair.

Q41 Chair: Ms Abbott, what is your experience?

Jo Abbott: We would concur with what Mr King has said. The cases of people who don’t appeal are not recorded so it is very difficult to judge how many there are. We don’t get calls from many members of the public about parking issues. That reflects the fact that parking is becoming better understood by the public. However, I do think that in many instances we see a sledgehammer being used to crack a nut. Improved signage should make where you can and cannot park much clearer to people. After all, the majority of drivers are simply going into towns to do their shopping or to access educational institutions and so on. This should not be a complicated thing to do. The signage should be absolutely clear about where you can and cannot park. If something goes wrong, the system for dealing with that problem should be quite simple. Again, I agree that we should not be talking about things like adjudications. It makes this all sound as if there has been a murder somewhere and that should not be the case. This is parking.

In some cases we would also like to see parking methods being made easier for the public. I know we have been talking about paying for parking by phone, but we have an ageing population in this country. A lot of older people still don’t have a mobile phone. It makes things very much more difficult for them now. Going forward, maybe there will be easier ways of paying for parking by using black box technology that is already in the car. However, it is not right that parking becomes such a complicated issue for people.

Q42 Chair: Mr Ashford, in your written evidence to us you have praised Transport for London. Do you have praise for any other local authorities outside London?

Peter Ashford: No, I don’t. I am not aware of that.

Q43 Chair: Do you do work outside London? Do you have information for what is happening outside London?

Peter Ashford: Yes, very much so.

Q44 Chair: Can you name any good authorities in relation to parking?

Peter Ashford: I will tell you that Richmond upon Thames is an excellent one now. It was not so two years ago, but they had a root and branch review. They had some problems with wrongly issued penalty charge notices. They did the right thing. They had a major review of all of their parking policy. They completely reviewed all of their parking enforcement. They went through a remarkable voluntary exercise of consulting the whole of the area, with shopkeepers and residents, and asked, "Do we need this restriction that you have now?" They proactively did it and they put it in place. It is a very much better place. It is rather remarkable, I think.

Q45 Chair: Do you think that local authorities should be able to use parking revenues more flexibly than they can now?

Peter Ashford: You have said, if I could interrupt, two or three questions-

Chair: I am asking you that question, Mr Ashford. Do you think local authorities should be able to use revenues from parking more flexibly than they can now?

Peter Ashford: I am quite sure that they should not be receiving any penalty income whatsoever. This is the whole fundamental issue. They have a massive vested interest in enforcement. That is shown by the larger authorities that are very aggressive and have all the high-tech methods of enforcement. They make massive profits. The smaller enforcement authorities and those that enforce conscientiously and are reasonable and helpful, and avoid contraventions by moving people on rather than letting them park and penalising them, which has become the standard thing now, have deficits in their revenue. There is no justice in the monetary benefit to councils from penalty enforcement.

Q46 Iain Stewart: Over the years there have been a number of cases reported in the media about cowboy wheel clampers or people being clamped for very minor infringements. Is that still a problem now or has it diminished?

Peter Ashford: It does not happen on the street now. We have tow-aways but not clamping. That was very much tied up with the use of contract enforcers-many councils do that-where there is a massive motivation for issuing penalty charge notices. They have targets, which they deny, but it has been proven that they do, and at every opportunity clamping and aggressive enforcement has been the norm. What has now gone, fortunately, is the clamping, but the other aggressive forms of enforcement still remain.

Q47 Iain Stewart: Is that the view of the RAC and the AA?

Edmund King: The Protection of Freedoms Act, which ultimately outlawed clamping on private land from last October, has basically been followed. It is now a criminal offence. When the Traffic Management Act was launched, the Minister at the time, Rosie Winterton, talked in the guidance about restricting the use of on-street clamping. There is this bizarre argument that, if you have a car in the wrong place and causing an obstruction, why should you clamp it to cause a longer obstruction? It makes no logical sense at all. The use of clamping is now more or less restricted to people who have perhaps three or four unpaid fines or vehicle excise duty fines. Those vehicles are clamped to immobilise them rather than for a parking penalty. In respect of that, things are much better.

An area where we have to be careful that it does not become the new clamping is the use of CCTV in some cases. We have had a number of cases at the AA. There was one recently at Canning Town tube station. A husband went to meet his disabled wife at midnight and pulled up outside the tube station where there was a loading bay. He stopped there for precisely two minutes. It was caught on closed circuit television for two minutes. He got a penalty as a result of that.

There are a number of things there. There is the use of CCTV. I think Mr Ashford would probably also point out that you are allowed to stop in a loading bay to collect someone if they have special needs. We have to be careful about the use of CCTV because it is very easy to issue tickets willy-nilly without checking the details.

That links to the question about revenue and what it is used for. The worry is that, if revenue is used too generally, then local authorities become dependent on that revenue and will therefore look to more ways to make money. Enforcement should be about keeping the streets clear and acting as a deterrent but not for raising revenue.

Peter Ashford: You are talking about whether signage is clear. I will have some things to say on that later, if you wish. The point is that many local authorities do not understand the meaning of signage. They do not read the regulations and they don’t understand it. With regard to the example Mr King gave, I have had the same situation with a taxi driver in Birmingham. He helped a literally crippled lady whom he carries from time to time to a shop about four shops away from where he was. He could not park there because someone was loading. It is totally permissible to stop there for boarding and alighting. Boarding and alighting is perfectly permissible where there is a prohibition on loading and loading only. It is a standard situation but councils don’t know this.

If you have an elderly person, a disabled person or a small child who needs accompanying, the boarding and alighting will allow you to deliver them and collect them, providing it is nearby. You cannot wait but you can deliver them. People do get punished for that. Someone came to me quite recently and said, "What can we do about it?" I said, "There is no contravention," which there is not, but councils do not understand that. Boarding and alighting is a very important thing.

Q48 Chair: What are the most important parking issues in town centres?

Jo Abbott: First of all, parking is very much thought of as a service and really it is a transport issue. We think that, if this debate were able to move on so that local authorities were asked to demonstrate what they are trying to achieve in the long run so far as transport is concerned, we might be able to get away from constantly discussing things like parking alongside the kerb and so on. In a town centre we think that what you are looking for, first and foremost, is a pleasant environment that will attract people and then access to that environment. That might help the debate that we have had recently with the Portas towns, access to the high street and so on.

Pertaining to this argument, we think there ought to be a very much better understanding of the differences between car use and car ownership. Car use, which is what we are talking about in the local authority context, is very much a matter for local authorities, whereas car ownership should be a national-level debate, as it is in some other European countries.

Edmund King: There are some interesting issues in relation to parking in towns and restrictions and what effects an extra parking charge or an extended no-parking zone will have. There is an interesting paper by Dr Greg Marsden of Leeds university on the evidence base for parking policies from 2006. One of the things he looks at and refers to is a controlled parking zone in the centre of Edinburgh. He said that, if you looked to expand that controlled zone out by a half a mile, it would have very little effect because drivers would walk that extra half a mile to get free parking. It was quite interesting because he showed that people would walk further than was previously considered to get free parking. It showed how important free parking was to people. His report also says that the concerns that exist about loss of trade due to parking charges being increased do have some foundation. It is all about getting a balance between not wanting congested town centres without putting up charges or restrictions so high that people go out of town.

We need some more innovation and good practice here. We have looked at one in Chester that has a policy called "Free After Three". In three car parks there you can park free of charge after 3 o’clock in the afternoon, which tends to be a time when the roads are not so congested, but it helps a lot of the local shops and the local services. Some innovation like that needs to be called upon, otherwise we will see our high streets deserted even further as people go out of town. It is getting that balance between keeping traffic moving and also offering services so that people can park if they need to go to the shops.

Q49 Chair: Is there a case for having one system for London and a different system outside London?

Edmund King: London is very different. Even before the congestion charging zone in central London, 86% of people coming into London used public transport anyway. It has an extremely good network. I might be the President of the AA, but I have my tube and train pass because it would be silly to drive into central London. The needs of London are different because it is bigger and has more extensive public transport.

When you get out of London, more of the towns and cities, particularly in semi-rural areas, are more dependent on road transport because the bus service might not be as good and there might not be a train going there. That is where local authorities have to be very careful that their policies don’t backfire and that they provide adequate parking.

Q50 Chair: Would any of you make any changes in the current adjudication process and tribunal system?

Jo Abbott: No, except to encourage access by telephone, which has been very successful. It is a universal means of access. Even if people do not have a mobile phone, they will very often now have a phone in the house. A large majority of domestic households have a telephone. It means that people who do not have access to the internet-in other words, cannot do things by e-mail-have fair access. It also means that people who do not have good use of the English language can have a fair hearing and a bit of help with their explanation. I think telephone hearings are an extremely good and desirable thing.

Q51 Chair: Mr Ashford, you told us in the written evidence you have given us that many councils refuse to refund penalty charge moneys that are subsequently discovered to have been collected by invalid penalty charge notices. Can you tell us any more about that and how big that problem is?

Peter Ashford: Yes, if I can find my notes. At least nine local authorities have refunded substantial sums of penalty charge money where it has been established that there were wrongly issued penalty charge notices. This is either because of defects in the penalty charge notice or the notice to owner, because the signage is incorrect, or because the traffic orders are either non-existent or defective. Only four days ago there was a case in Carlisle. They had a yellow line indicating no parking at any time. They have had it for a year but there is no traffic order. It is totally invalid. All of that money must be refunded.

Such money as is taken by the council does not come into the lawful ownership of the council. The council has no lawful power to do anything with it except they must divest themselves of it. As I say, this is what has happened with nine councils. The most recent one is Hertfordshire county council. They had an appalling situation with a bus lane. It went on for about a year where they were really in a very bad situation. They did not have a correctly written traffic order and the signage was confusing. What was wrong had been repeatedly pointed out to the parking department and they just ignored it. That was very bad. When a parking appeal finally concluded that that was all wrong, they stopped it. Someone else there with a much better personality then decided that they must refund it all because they did not own it. As of now, they have refunded just over £800,000 and they have given the residue of £120,000 to charity because it does not belong to them. They should have done something about the situation before and not persisted with what was clearly unsatisfactory enforcement, which has happened in many places.

Other councils have proactively done the same thing where car parks have not had a proper traffic order or not been updated. Therefore, there was no validity in the issuing of any of the penalty charges. When that was established, without any prompting, interference or anything like that, they realised the situation and refunded it. Nine councils have done the same thing.

We now have a very unsatisfactory situation with Islington where they have a road junction that has caused many problems. A parking appeal a month or two months ago decided that the traffic order was not correct. They agreed that they had not updated it. Apart from the difficulties, that was a genuine and quite innocent mistake of carelessness. They have agreed that they are going to refund the money, so that is very good, except that they have put a little advert on the website that nobody knows about and nobody will know about. I can tell you from experience that they will get no more than a 1% response to that. What they have not realised is that none of that money belongs to them and they cannot do as they like with it. They must dispose of it. The only way is to refund it to those who paid. The situation of importance there is that they know everybody who has paid it. They have all the details of who paid it, when and how much they paid.

The second thing is that the reality is that they have said to every one of those people, "You contravened the regulations. You owe us £70," and they paid up. They must then correct themselves by saying, "We apologise. You did not owe us £70 and the money is available to refund. You may claim or apply for a refund." They do not have to appeal for it; there is nothing to appeal. They have to be notified of the opportunity to obtain a refund. That means that they must be made aware of it; it is as simple as that. If I found your handbag that you dropped on the bus and it has your name and address in it so I know whom it belongs to, the onus is on me to contact you to say, "I have your handbag. Would you like it back?" It is up to you to say, "Yes, I want it back," strangely enough, but I cannot keep it to myself if I know whom it belongs to. It is just the same situation with the refunding.

I should say that in our note there was a reference to the Fraud Act, which is very unlikely. That is only in certain cases, but it certainly engages the Theft Act because it is a dishonest appropriation of property, with the other simple conditions that apply.

Q52 Chair: Would you say this problem is reducing or increasing?

Peter Ashford: It is not an ongoing problem. It crops up here and there at random through an oversight or persistence in wrongful enforcement, which is then decisively stopped by a tribunal decision. The issue arises when an event comes to light, so we don’t know where it is happening elsewhere.

Q53 Chair: Mr King, is this something of which you are aware?

Edmund King: Yes. I would add to that because I have personal experience of the scheme in Hertfordshire with people being wrongfully convicted. Indeed, Mrs King received a ticket there. It was a totally confusing left turn with a bus lane. It was incredibly unclear. I personally know about five people who have been convicted. The local authority must have known, with the amount of people being prosecuted about that, that something was wrong. This is part of the problem. If you are getting thousands and thousands of tickets from a particular junction, then something is wrong; it is unclear. Motorists don’t willingly want a £100 ticket or whatever it is.

One of the things we have suggested is that, if you look at the tribunals and the cases that go there, currently 26% of the appeals are not contested at all. That has got better-well, perhaps not better. In 2000-01, 43% were not contested. It varies from local authority to local authority. If you find a local authority that is not challenging any of the appeals at tribunal, then it would suggest that they are doing something wrong and that tickets are being invalidly issued because they are not going up and contesting them. If that is the case and if a local authority is above a certain threshold, then perhaps the drivers should be compensated for that because the local authority is not being responsible in its enforcement.

Q54 Chair: Can you name any local authorities that are doing this well and are taking notice?

Edmund King: I cannot remember off the top of my head. In our evidence we have listed some of the percentages of local authorities that do or don’t appeal.

Peter Ashford: I recall that the City of London DNC-"Does Not Contest"-hardly any of them. Practically all of them are "Do Not Contest", after having wasted the appellant’s time and representations. That is one example.

Q55 Mr Sanders: I want to come back to the idea of telephone hearings. How many authorities allow telephone hearings?

Jo Abbott: So far as I understand it, Mr Sanders, on the back of the parking penalty notice there will always be a telephone contact for the local parking office so that guidance can be given to people who have been issued with a penalty notice.

Q56 Mr Sanders: That is not the same as having a hearing where you can telephone in.

Jo Abbott: I am sorry-I thought you said how many local authorities will allow an appeal. A challenge to the notice in the first place will very often be done by telephone because the contact number for the parking manager appears on the back of the parking penalty notice. So far as the telephone appeal to the parking adjudicator is concerned, are you asking me if that is allowed by the local authority?

Q57 Mr Sanders: Who decides when that can be? Is that a service that is up and running?

Jo Abbott: I will have to refer back to the parking adjudicator as to who gives authority for that.

Peter Ashford: I can answer that. When you go to the tribunal, to an adjudicator, on a parking appeal, it is only done by the owner of the vehicle after a notice to owner has been served and the representation has been rejected. When every council rejects representations against the notice to owner, you either have to pay up or appeal to the tribunal. You are given an appeal form. The appeal form of the tribunal asks whether you want a written appeal, a personal hearing or a telephone hearing. That is an option available from the tribunal itself.

Q58 Chair: Ms Abbott, you refer in your written evidence to the San Francisco experience of parking sensors. What are the lessons of that experience?

Jo Abbott: Westminster has recently introduced these parking spaces with sensors so it is possible to detect whether or not a parking place is free to use. San Francisco has perhaps experienced an unforeseen consequence in that there is also a variable tariff attached to some parking spaces or a variable tariff can be attached to reflect the supply and demand at any time of the day. People have been cruising around San Francisco looking for a cheap parking space. Of course that has not helped to reduce congestion.

Chair: Thank you very much for coming and answering our questions.

Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Kevin Golding-Williams, Public Affairs and Policy Manager, Living Streets, Christopher Hodder, Government Relations Executive, British Motorcyclists Federation, Stephen Smith, Operations Director, Confederation of Passenger Transport UK, and James Hookham, Managing Director of Policy & Communications, Freight Transport Association, gave evidence.

Q59 Chair: Good afternoon and welcome to the Transport Select Committee. Would you give your name and organisation, please?

Kevin Golding-Williams: I am Kevin Golding-Williams from Living Streets.

Christopher Hodder: I am Chris Hodder from the British Motorcyclists Federation.

Stephen Smith: I am Stephen Smith from the Confederation of Passenger Transport.

James Hookham: I am James Hookham from the Freight Transport Association.

Q60 Chair: Is parking enforcement fair and transparent? Who would like to give me the verdict?

James Hookham: It certainly is not for the commercial vehicle operator, and that is the particular concern of the FTA. Many of our members, especially in London, find this to be a particular burden on their operations. They pay between them fines running into millions of pounds a year. They find it very frustrating and very challenging to their businesses because they believe they are being confused in a policy that does not discriminate between offences about parking and the legitimate business activity of delivering goods to stores and commercial outlets. The particular plea of the FTA in this respect, as an overview, is that, after five years of the Traffic Management Act, we take this opportunity to review progress and attempt to formally distinguish between these two very different activities that are, at the moment, being thoroughly confused.

Q61 Chair: Mr Hodder, do motorcyclists think it is fair?

Christopher Hodder: Motorcyclists have a particular issue with signage and the consistencies and inconsistencies of different policies in different places. You can travel around most of the UK and park freely on a motorcycle, but in certain areas there could be restrictions and there would be no signage to indicate what those restrictions are. If you are unlucky, you will get a ticket and then you find out that you weren’t allowed to park there in the first place.

London is obviously a particular example of confusing policies. I can give two examples. In Lewisham, you can park pretty much in any controlled parking space with a motorcycle, provided you don’t take up too much space. In Southwark, which is obviously next door, you can’t park anywhere except in a designated motorcycle parking bay. It is the same with Hackney and Islington. In Hackney, you can park in pretty much any controlled parking space, provided you don’t take up too much space. In Islington, you can’t park in any. Of course, when you are on the streets and you are about to park, you don’t know which borough you are in and don’t know whether you are allowed to park in that particular spot or not.

From my own personal experience, I had a similar experience in Lambeth several years ago where there was a pay-and-display residents’ shared-use bay. I went to park there at 6.25 in the evening. I could not find anything saying I couldn’t park there, so I did. I got a ticket at 6.25 in the evening when the restriction finished at 6.30. That was many years ago now when I wasn’t particularly confident about my ability to appeal, so I didn’t. I paid up.

Q62 Chair: Is this a problem outside London as well?

Christopher Hodder: It is not so much a problem outside London because generally it is a bit more obvious where you are, although if you are travelling somewhere you have not been before and there are rules in place they won’t be signed on the street. In most cases, if there is a restriction that you can’t park somewhere, you probably would not know.

Q63 Chair: How would you be expected to find out?

Christopher Hodder: The best way would probably be to look it up on a council website if you have a good half an hour to trawl through all the different pages on parking that they have.

Q64 Chair: Mr Smith, how do you see the situation?

Stephen Smith: We come at it from two different angles. On the one hand, there is the bus side of things where, effectively, illegal parking or lack of enforcement can delay regular services and really hamper the general public. On the other hand, you have our coaches, which are obviously taking people on day trips all over the country and on holiday, where often it becomes quite difficult in some cases to find designated coach parking areas. Very often some are very short term. I can give the example of the Natural History Museum. There are a couple of designated bays where coaches are queuing up all the time to pick up their return parties and simply get fined as a result. There are two sorts of angles from that point of view.

By and large bus services don’t get fined. We are quite disappointed as an industry. While we looked forward to the introduction of designated transport managers, because it gave specific powers to the highway authority in a sense to work with the local bus companies to try and find measures to ease congestion and to see what could be done in particular difficult hotspots, to look at certain junctions and things like that, which would ease matters, the results have been fairly patchy across the country. Some authorities have worked quite well and put these measures in, such as quality bus partnerships. Others have not been at all interested.

I would quote the report from VOSA’s bus operator account managers who have done their first year, whereby they approached 95 local authorities. Some were welcomed in with open arms. Some knew who they were and knew what their job was. Others did not know who they were and wouldn’t even entertain them through the door to talk about punctuality and improvement partnerships, which is part of the duties of the local authority and the transport managers. It is a bit messy, and somehow there needs to be a greater understanding from our side, from our operators, to push it through local councils in particular, I reckon, and those local authorities.

Q65 Chair: Do you want to name any authorities that do it well?

Stephen Smith: Essex is one that does well. My personal experience of dealing with Essex has been very good. Some of the PTEs have been very good; Transport for Greater Manchester has been pretty good and so has Merseyside. Some of the smaller local authorities are the ones where you start to get into real sorts of difficulties.

Q66 Chair: Mr Golding-Williams, you talk a lot in your written evidence about problems with pavement parking. Is that the main issue for you?

Kevin Golding-Williams: Yes, particularly with this notion of fairness. Pedestrians are the most vulnerable road users, if you like. As has already been described this afternoon, the rules regarding pavement parking are frankly a mess. In London, it is illegal to park on the pavement except for areas that have exemptions. That receives signage and is fairly clear. Outside London, it is very confusing. It relies on the making of traffic regulation orders by local authorities in those authorities that have decriminalised their parking. These are typically very low numbers. There are some issues or suggested problems where enforcement contracts have gone out to tender and pavement parking has not been included within those contracts. Certainly for us as an organisation, it is one of the most problematic areas that are flagged up by our supporters.

We did a campaign recently in February and a thousand people wrote to their local authority asking what they were doing with regard to pavement parking. We think that your starting point is a national ban and then you apply exemptions, rather than bringing in traffic regulation orders for very specific areas where pavement parking should be banned.

Q67 Chair: Is the current problem in that area to do with enforcement or the legislation itself?

Kevin Golding-Williams: It is both. In those places where enforcement procedures are available it is not being enforced enough. The police have some powers with regard to obstruction of the highway. It is suggested that they are not using those powers. Indeed, a number of supporters have provided us with images of police vehicles parked on pavements. The most extreme example I have seen is where a police vehicle was parked outside a takeaway restaurant. The suggestion was that the food was being collected. That is a major issue for us because, if that is the authority that is meant to be enforcing where the local authority has not taken control from a traffic regulation order, we ask what sort of precedent that is setting.

Christopher Hodder: On pavement parking, our members have a slightly different view. They tend to find that in London it is very vigorously enforced, particularly if it is in an area where no obstruction could take place-for example, in between two planters on the edge of a pavement. Our members strongly feel that pavement parking for motorcycles should be allowed where there is no obstruction. We don’t see why it is a blanket ban in London and in the rest of the country common sense is allowed to prevail. It has to be, probably, the only major European capital city that bans pavement parking.

Q68 Graham Stringer: How would you define "obstruction"?

Christopher Hodder: My father said at least 2 metres. He thought that was the law, but it is not. It is basically anywhere where somebody pushing a double buggy could get through without any obstruction and be able to cross the road.

Q69 Graham Stringer: What about people with impaired vision?

Christopher Hodder: There are normally many other obstructions on the pavement anyway.

Q70 Graham Stringer: So another one wouldn’t matter.

Christopher Hodder: It would be a slightly larger one. In most cases, no, I shouldn’t think it would.

Q71 Chair: Mr Hookham, what are the problems for businesses in being able to park in town centres particularly?

James Hookham: As I was explaining, the dilemma for businesses is that they are there to perform an essential economic function. They have little choice about changing their behaviour in relation to fines, which are supposedly providing a deterrent. Therefore, they very often receive repeat parking charge notices, and over a period of time this can run into many millions of pounds in terms of money actually being paid. The destination to which the goods are being delivered is obviously fixed. Very often, those premises are only occupied and open for deliveries at certain times during the day, and, because of other restrictions on operation and travel, the delivery windows available to many businesses are very limited. In the retail sector, you really don’t want to be offloading goods in the middle of peak shopping hours, which is not necessarily the rush hour but very often later in the morning or earlier in the afternoon, and yet that brings you into conflict with the peak times in traffic movements. Because parking enforcers tend to know which deliveries are being made when, there is a suspicion that these are seen as easy pickings and that a very large number of fines are incurred on a repeat basis at the same time of day every day of the week.

Q72 Chair: Can you give us an idea of how much is paid in fines by your members? How many, for example, have to pay more than £100,000 a year?

James Hookham: We have conducted a number of surveys of our members because they have been very vocal in telling us that they don’t feel this is fair and that something needs to be done. Our most recent survey covered the period July 2011 to June 2012. Over that period, 27 members reported that 53,000 parking charge notices had been issued. Not every one was paid in full. Many were disputed and some were paid at the reduced rate, but nearly £3 million was paid. That varied tremendously between some very small businesses that were only paying a few fines to certain very high-profile businesses-we promised not to divulge their names-who were paying in excess of £1 million to £1.5 million because of the kind of goods they were carrying.

Q73 Chair: How many businesses are paying that much?

James Hookham: The number has improved in recent years. We used to have a committee called the Millionaires Club. The entry rule was that you had to be paying more than £1 million a year in parking fines in London.

Q74 Chair: How many members?

James Hookham: We had 20 when we started.

Q75 Chair: There were 20 members of the Millionaires Club.

James Hookham: There were 20 members-at least those that turned up. I had a roomful of very angry members who were very frustrated. Although we saw a marked improvement in some parts of London-and I should stress that this was particularly a London issue-the survey to which I have just referred saw a 50% increase in the number of PCNs issued over that time between January and July. We saw a reduction following our action in 2008 but it does seem to have come up again. As a result, the level of frustration being expressed by FTA members has increased accordingly.

The key issue is that we are finding it very difficult to engage the sustained interest and concern of London boroughs in particular and one or two other councils around the country where this is an issue. Clearly there is a conflict of interest. The council, as the beneficiary of this money, left to itself would not perhaps be overenthusiastic about trying to find a solution to it. The way the Traffic Management Act is set out puts an overriding emphasis on congestion management. In particular at this time, when we are trying to find solutions to rejuvenating our town centres, it would repay to balance that off against the need to provide good levels of service and access for goods and service deliveries in town centres. It may be that the pendulum has swung too far and that we need to revisit that.

Q76 Chair: How far are the penalty charges regarded as a business cost for you?

James Hookham: They are certainly provided for because they are recurring and it is known that they will be incurred, which is counterproductive, surely, because it has lost any sense of deterrence. These do represent a significant cash drain on businesses and, as I say, many of our members do not set out to break the law or commit parking offences. They find that they have no choice, especially when they are attempting to reconcile the very challenging demands of health and safety legislation, which would impose particular requirements to perform risk assessments on particular deliveries of large, heavy or bulky goods. The option, therefore, to park several tens of yards around the corner and walk the goods in is not necessarily an option-plus the fact there are the pressures of time, and issues of security, especially for cash deliveries and other high-value loads. Simply asking or expecting commercial vehicle operators and businesses to go somewhere else and find an alternative is not always as practical as it may seem.

Q77 Chair: Is this a London issue or is it outside London?

James Hookham: Primarily it is, yes, and we make that very clear. We are beginning to see some of the symptoms appear in other metropolitan areas, although certainly our members are very focused on London because that is where we believe the greatest density of delivery destinations and the greatest pressures on road space occur. Where the London boroughs and London authorities have had the ability to set their own rules for some time ahead of the rest of the country, we have started to see these issues arise perhaps earlier than elsewhere.

Q78 Chair: What are your experiences of the current appeal system-the adjudication process? Does anybody have any views on whether you think it is fair or it should be changed?

Stephen Smith: As far as the Confederation is concerned, it is very rare that we get any calls from our bus and coach operator members that they have any sort of fines for parking. Those that do have found, when they have put their case forward, that by and large it has been dealt with reasonably. We do not have a great deal of regular dealings with any appeal arrangements.

Q79 Chair: Are there any other views on the appeal system?

Christopher Hodder: From the motorcyclists’ perspective we very rarely get any complaints. In fact I have not had any complaints about the appeals process, so on that basis I assume it is working very well.

Q80 Chair: Mr Golding-Williams, have I understood you correctly when you say that your problem is that action against pavement parking is not taken rather than appealing against actions that are taken?

Kevin Golding-Williams: Yes. It is basically the idea of the costs associated with this as well. There was a consultation undertaken last year by the Department for Transport and many people will remember it well. It was with regard to advertising traffic regulation notices in local newspapers. There was a proposal that that should no longer be a requirement. Interestingly enough, it suggested that the cost of traffic regulation orders across the UK was around £17 million per year. It is very tricky to get individual stats, but the average cost of a traffic regulation order-each one individually-is between £1,000 and £3,000.

The way the system works at the moment is that, if you want to bring in a pavement parking ban in a certain street, you would have to go through that process every time. The DFT did change it so that you can go slightly wider than that, but it is still the wrong way round. It really needs to be a default ban and then opting out and setting in where there should be exemptions, perhaps in certain areas, but making sure that the pedestrian users and particularly vulnerable pedestrians have a say in that process.

Q81 Chair: How do you think that new technology could affect parking enforcement?

Christopher Hodder: From the motorcyclists’ perspective we have some experience of dealing with pay-by-phone parking, particularly in Westminster. From a practical point of view, while I can understand that if you are sitting in a nice warm car with no special clothing on it is probably very useful, when you are standing out in the rain trying to manhandle a mobile phone and a credit card with gloves and a helmet on it is not very practical. There are also issues of personal security when standing on the street with your phone out and your wallet waving around. From that point of view it is nice but not very practical.

Q82 Chair: Are there any other comments on the technology?

Stephen Smith: With all forms of new technology, it needs to be investigated as to what benefits it can bring. I would tend to suggest that, particularly with things such as parking sensors, it might start to bring more dynamic use of road space so that it can effectively be allocated to certain requirements at certain times of day. For example, instead of being a loading bay all day, outside a theatre at night it could be a couple of coach bays for dropping off and picking up people to and from the theatre. You would be making best use of the space, whereas otherwise, as it currently stands, we wouldn’t be able to use that because it would be a goods-only bay and not a coach bay. There is great potential as time goes on to look at some of these things. Congestion is only going to get worse. We need to look at all these things as a way forward.

Similarly, cashless parking systems will come about, but we must remember, as mentioned earlier, that not everybody will go down that road. It will be some way before we get there. Nevertheless, that should not stop us from making a start and trying to do all these various systems to make life a lot easier. Everybody benefits from CCTV as it stands at the moment in terms of parking enforcement.

James Hookham: Actually they don’t, because our biggest problem is with CCTV. It provides a means of observing vehicles. There is a requirement in enforcing parking restrictions to observe a vehicle to tell whether it is undertaking a delivery or not. Many of our members report that they have been caught on CCTV performing entirely legitimate deliveries, but, because the television camera is pointing at the wrong side of the vehicle and doesn’t actually see the delivery being undertaken, the perception of the operator is that this is just simply a parked vehicle and the delivery factor is not taken into account.

Q83 Chair: Where that has happened, Mr Hookham, is that ever reversed on appeal?

James Hookham: Yes, it can be reversed if you can provide sufficient evidence of deliveries and so on. Indeed, many appeals are successful, but we start from the premise that this shouldn’t be necessary in the first place. With national Government and many local authorities desperate to get rejuvenation of the high street, this is a part of the economy trying to do its best against a lot of challenges to perform efficient logistics and get goods into stores where they will hopefully be sold but being penalised for doing that. After five or six years of trying to deal with this, my members are beginning to lose patience and would appeal for a reality check on the Transport Management Act to see if we can’t get a much clearer distinction between the activity of parking and parking illegally, quite separately from the activity of delivery. We respect that there need to be restrictions on deliveries, but very often these are supporting essential economic activity.

Q84 Graham Stringer: In the cases where your members have been receiving these huge fines over a period of time, is it because it is impossible for them to deliver under the regulations or because it is inconvenient for their business to deliver at times that would be in compliance?

James Hookham: In some cases it is impossible. There are stretches of road in the very centre of London where, through a combination of restrictions, it was technically illegal to deliver at any time in a 24-hour period. That has fortunately now been sorted out.

Q85 Graham Stringer: On that point, it has been sorted in those areas where it would have destroyed the business if people had not broken the rules?

James Hookham: Yes. On your point about it being an inconvenience, I would say it is expensive and costly, and, at a time when we are trying to take as much cost out of the system as possible, then the suggestion that deliveries should be made at an alternative time to avoid what I would argue is a poorly thought-through parking restriction policy is just simply going to require either an extra journey to be made that need not be made or it is going to destroy the efficiency that many businesses rely on of being able to make many deliveries from one vehicle simply because they cannot do all the deliveries off that one vehicle in that one journey.

We are trying hard to reconcile a number of competing objectives here. As road users ourselves, we respect the need for congestion management, but the relatively low profile of the need for deliveries and businesses receiving them in the overall equation that local authorities need to understand and respect, as set out in the guidance to the Traffic Management Act, means that we get a very poor voice in that. The time has come to re-look at this, given what we are hoping local town centres will do.

Q86 Graham Stringer: What do you mean when you say you get "a very poor voice"? Do local authorities prioritise traffic flow at peak times when some of your members want to deliver, or do you think they just don’t listen to you? What is the evidence either way?

James Hookham: I suspect it is the former. The priority has been given to congestion management. If you look at the guidance to the Traffic Management Act, it is very clear. It is the first requirement for local authorities to consider. Towards the bottom of the page it mentions deliveries and businesses. It has been the case of the FTA-and we have discussed it many times with this Committee-that there is a need for freight logistics to have a slightly higher profile in transport policy debate because it is a very central part of the economy. I believe that some of these very legitimate concerns need to be taken more seriously by local councils.

Kevin Golding-Williams: I would add something on the role of technology and take it back one step-i.e. not getting in the car in the first place. Obviously, for deliveries, it is a slightly different issue. Looking at travel planning websites, in London we have the Transport for London website. You can look to see how long your walking journey will be. Certainly in our Walk to Work Week, which has just taken place, hundreds of organisations around the country have encouraged their employees to consider other routes, such as walking and using public transport. There is also a role there for car clubs and using web sites to use cars that are on-street rather than bringing your own car into areas.

Chair: Thank you very much for coming and answering our questions.

Prepared 22nd October 2013