Local Authority Parking Enforcement

Written evidence from the Local Government Association (PE 42)

About the Local Government Association

The Local Government Association (LGA) is the national voice of local government. We work with councils to support, promote and improve local government. We are a politically-led, cross party organisation which works on behalf of councils to ensure local government has a strong, credible voice with national government. We aim to influence and set the political agenda on the issues that matter to councils so they are able to deliver local solutions to national problems. The LGA covers every part of England and Wales, supporting local government as the most efficient and accountable part of the public sector.

Summary

· The provision of robust and effective transport infrastructure is a fundamental factor to ensuring the UK’s economic recovery and local government is integral to its delivery [1] .

· Effective traffic management is one of the core tools local authorities use to nurture local economic growth, an essential part of which is parking provision and enforcement. Councils need to have the full range of tools to deal with this increasingly complex and significant problem.

· Council revenue from parking (including penalty charges) is dwarfed by council spending on transport.

· The need for parking provision or its restriction, and the appropriate level of charges, will vary from place to place even within a single district. These needs can only be properly assessed at the local level.

· Technological advances and migration of shopping habits online have fundamentally changed the UK’s approach to retail, and in turn had an adverse impact on the British high street.

Answers to inquiry questions

How should councils use their revenue from penalty charges, metered parking, car parks and residents’ parking? Should there be more local discretion over how income is used?

1. The LGA has long argued against ring fencing of particular funds for specific purposes as this limits councils’ ability to make the most appropriate choices for their area. However, as far as the hypothecation of revenue from car parking is concerned, as explained below the point is largely irrelevant.

2. The first call on any income from parking charges is the costs of providing parking in the first place. Parking schemes do not necessarily generate a surplus. At present, all revenue from on street parking and penalty charges arising from parking offences must be spent on transport, including highway maintenance and environmental improvements.

3. Even when off street parking is included, the total sum (i.e. on-street and off-street parking charges and penalty notices, minus costs of providing parking services) received by councils in England stands was £411 million in 2011/12. In the same period, council highways and transport spending in England was roughly twenty times as great, standing at £8.11 billion in 2011/12.

4. All council spending on transport benefits motorists either through directly improving and maintaining the roads, or through providing transport alternatives that reduce traffic. It is also a central to both the nurturing and stimulation of local economic growth.

5. Councils face an almost insurmountable backlog of road maintenance requirements with the state of local roads being possibly the single greatest transport complaint received by councils. Decades of underfunding and recent severe winters has left large swathes of our roads in disrepair with many councils struggling to move beyond simply patching up a deteriorating network.

6. The extra £215 million the Ggovernment announced in the 2012 autumn statement was much needed and will help off-set the half-a-billion pound cut to roads maintenance funding which councils were facing during 2011 to 2015. However, there is still a long way to go and the £3 billion councils are receiving from government for highways maintenanc e between 2011 and 2015 is actually £442 million less than they would have received over the same period based on 2010/11 funding levels. By 2014/15 the Highways Maintenance Budget will be £164 million a year less than in 2010/11, a 19% drop.

7. Bus service funding has also suffered significant cuts and the impact of these is likely to increase in coming years. In short, therefore, for most authorities, there is little point in discussing the freedom to use funds for non-transport purposes as there is little prospect of any surplus from parking charges outweighing the need for transport funds, in particular for road maintenance.

8. It is important to consider the wider financial context, in which local government is enduring unprecedented funding cuts, imposed by central government. In the current spending round this equates to a 32.7% real terms cut in funding, equivalent to over 10 billion pounds, which is no longer available to aid councils in the provision of public services, or to help them nurture economic growth.

9. However, any greater freedom on use of parking revenue would be welcome and allow local authorities to take flexible financial approaches to individual local challenges.

What impact will new technology, such as cashless parking, parking sensors and CCTV, have on local authority parking enforcement?

10. New technology offers councils the opportunity to reduce the cost of parking provision (although the precise balance of costs and benefits can only be properly assessed at a local level) and to integrate them into transport policy. For example cashless parking could in theory be integrated into smart card technology so that a single ‘oyster-style’ card allows one to pay for parking and travel on public transport. However, this kind of scheme relies on the cooperation of bus operators.

Should parking policy in London be subject to separate provisions and guidance, given, in particular, its large parking revenue surpluses, its more integrated public transport network and the number of foreign-registered vehicles in the city?

11. The LGA believes that all councils should be given maximum flexibility over parking provision.

How can local authorities strike a balance between using parking policy to manage congestion and using it to encourage people into town centres?

12. Parking charges are necessary in many locations. Free parking can encourage commuters to park all day in spaces that shoppers need in order to access shops, thereby damaging businesses. Elsewhere there may be benefits in providing free parking by shops, but on a time limited basis. Decisions about parking provision and charges can only be taken at a local level and will depend, among other things, on the proximity of a shopping area to offices or railway stations or other locations that lead to demand for parking places. In this respect it is worth noting that if the pursuit of savings identified in the McNulty report leads train operators to put up station car park charges parking, demand will be driven onto streets around stations increasing the need for parking schemes in those areas. The key is that local authorities are best-placed to know the right measures for a given area and are accountable to voters for their decisions.

13. Parking is not just a question of managing town centre traffic. Parking outside schools can be a significant problem for local residents and pose great danger to children and parents. In June 2012, Oldham council introduced a new road safety campaign designed to raise awareness of the serious problems that obstructive parking and congestion caused by reducing visibility for children crossing the road.  The Council agreed a rolling programme of term-time enforcement with local schools focusing on school entrance markings at peak times and using a new 'School Safety Vehicle'. For the first six weeks this was only electronically 'mapping' traffic regulation data in each area. Enforcement activities, including the issuing of Penalty Charge Notices at £70, began later. The campaign was launched with the support of Hey With Zion school . Casey Devine, a pupil at the primary school, had made headlines in March after she wrote to Oldham Council and local media asking for action after she was almost hit by a car which mounted the kerb.

 

14. In Brighton, the council has also clamped down on dangerous parking outside schools in response to public pressure. In addition schools are promoting a ‘five minute zone’ encouraging parents to park away from the school and walk the last five minutes in order to reduce congestion around the school gates. [1]

15. Councils believe that high streets do have a future even if some of the familiar high street names of the past do not. Councils are supporting small high street businesses in a variety of innovative ways, which includes looking at the correct level of parking charges required to encourage shoppers to stay local.

16. In Oldham from January 7 until April 5 2013 motorists are able to park up for free for up to two hours, seven days a week on all Council owned car parks and enjoy free on-street parking for up to 30 minutes. During that time a detailed consultation will take place with shoppers, retailers, residents, visitors and car park users. The council introduced three hours of free parking on Saturdays in town centre car parks in the run up to Christmas. As a result more people more people have visited the town centre. The free parking scheme will be extended if the results of the trial are positive.

17. Middlesbrough has also introduced free town centre parking for two hours following consultation with businesses.

18. Gelding Borough Council offers two hours’ free parking in areas such as Arnold and Mapperley to encourage people to shop locally rather than going into the city centre.

19. Nearly a decade ago, St Albans provided a case study of what could happen if parking controls were abolished when the police unilaterally abandoned enforcement. The Daily Telegraph described the effect on St Albans’ main road (St Peter’s Street) as resembling ‘’the terrible aftermath of the Iraqi army’s retreat from Kuwait in 1991. On both sides of the street, cars, vans, lorries had been left at every conceivable angle, seemingly abandoned rather than parked, while through traffic edged gingerly between them’’. [2] When parking controls returned in 2006 the BBC quoted a resident living near the station as saying ‘‘Before they [enforcement officers] arrived it was a nightmare, people just parked anywhere, any double yellow line they could find’’. [3] Following the introduction of controlled parking zones, reviews showed over three quarters of residents felt they had improved parking. [4]

20. In 2011-2 Aberystwyth spent a year without parking enforcement during which it became, according to Car park operator NCP, ‘the worst place in the country to find a parking space’. One local shopkeeper was quoted as saying that the absence of enforcement was ‘making life difficult for businesses, it’s bad for road safety, and the fear is it could delay an ambulance or a fire engine.’ [5] The Daily Telegraph quoted the joint chairman of Aberystwyth’s Chamber of Commerce, as saying: "Most people will welcome the fact that order is restored.. …. It has been chaotic, especially for people with disabilities, or delivery drivers. On balance, shoppers and the public generally will welcome the re-introduction of wardens." The paper went on to quote local motorist Kevin Evans: "The situation has gone from everyone celebrating the end of traffic wardens to incidents of road rage, huge traffic jams and residents not being able to move their vehicles from their driveways. It seems strange to say but a growing number of people will be happy to have the wardens back." [6]

21. The idea that the problems of the high street are caused by overly high parking charges is incorrect. UK high streets are evolving as a result of changing economic and retail circumstances. For example, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recently highlight that six out of ten British adults use the internet to buy products such as food, clothing, music or holidays, twice the average of the OECD’s 34 member states (including the US, Germany, Australia and France) [2] .

How can smaller local authorities use parking provision to manage congestion? Do they need to work regionally and strategically with neighbouring councils?

22. This will depend on local circumstances. There should be no requirement to act regionally as the need to do so can only be judged on a case-by-case basis and these judgements are better made locally than by central government. However, if it is necessary to do so, councils have demonstrated their ability to work together with partners across local areas through City Deals and shared service schemes.

What role does the Workplace Parking Levy have? Would people be more inclined to use park and ride services if there were a charge to park at work?

23. Parking provision is only one tool for managing traffic. Councils need to have the full range of tools to deal with this increasingly complex and significant problem. For example, the powers contained in Part 6 of the Traffic Management Act 2004 would enable local authorities to enforce moving vehicle offences (for example cycle lanes, yellow box junctions and banned turns). At present only councils in London have this power. Outside London these offences are nominally the responsibility of the police who tend not to devote resources to enforcing them. The absence of these powers hampers councils’ attempts to manage traffic, deterring cyclists and delaying buses as well as law-abiding motorists.

24. The LGA has been calling for these powers for many years, and continues to call on the Coalition Government to take action. Such increased powers for local authorities would allow them to influence their local road network and better manage the provision of public transport.

25. The workplace parking levy and park and ride schemes are among the other tools councils may wish to use. The decision whether and how to do so should be taken by locally accountable politicians not in Whitehall.

Are there steps local authorities can take, while managing congestion, to make it easier for businesses to trade and make deliveries?

26. One lesson, from experience in London, is that where enforcement is contracted out, the specifications of the contract and its subsequent management are all-important to ensure the spirit of the scheme is followed rather than simply the letter. In general, parking controls make it easier to deliver, not harder. Experience (see St Albans and Aberystwyth case studies detailed earlier) has shown that local authority parking enforcement is essential if businesses are to be able to trade effectively.

Are parking signs clear and comprehensible? To what extent are unclear signs and instructions the cause of breaches of parking control?

27. All on-street parking signs have to conform to Department for Transport guidance, which is intended to ensure they are clear. If they are not clear, there is an established appeals process.

March 2013


[1] See “ The road to growth: the case for greater local influence over transport” report from Localis , March 2013, http://tinyurl.com/cujbd99

[2] http://tinyurl.com/cfmt7tl


[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-sussex-20324559

[2] http://tinyurl.com/d5jtwgl

[3] http://tinyurl.com/c84foua

[4] Reviews of CPZ in West Common (79% felt parking better, 44% response rate) and Prospect Road and St Julians Road (96% better 47% response rate).

[5] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2152638/Aberystwyth-lifts-traffic-warden-ban-time-Jubilee-free-chaos.html

[6] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/news/9302318/Town-that-scrapped-traffic-wardens-welcomes-them-back-after-enduring-car-chaos.html

[6]

Prepared 1st May 2013