Local Authority Parking Enforcement

Written evidence from the RAC Foundation (PE 52)

About the RAC Foundation

1. The RAC Foundation is a charity which explores the economic, mobility, safety and environmental issues relating to roads and responsible road users. Independent and authoritative research, carried out for the public benefit, is central to the Foundation’s activities.


2. The Foundation welcomes this inquiry. In 2009, the Foundation published ‘The Car in British Society’ [1] which revealed just how much cars are an integral part of our twenty-first century economy. Given the predominant role of the car in the nation’s transport, surprisingly little attention seems to be paid by local authorities to parking policy. The average car is parked for about 80% of its time at home and elsewhere for 16% of its time [2] meaning it is in use for only 4% of the time.

3. The Foundation notes the majority of questions in this consultation focus on policies surrounding local authority parking management, rather than on the way in which parking penalties are awarded and processed. This marks a welcome change from previous consultations about parking. The Foundation believes good parking management has the potential to balance the competing demands for urban and suburban road space and should be a significant element of local authority transport plans.

4. The Foundation appreciates that government is committed through the Climate Change Act to a wide and prolonged programme of action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and so actively promotes low emission cars and alternative models for car use. But even a zero emission car, or a shared car, needs to park, and to do so at each end of its journey.

5. The RAC Foundation published a report on parking in 2004 and another in 2012 [3] using National Travel Survey (NTS) [4] data to give an overall impression of the demand for parking. Given the importance of parking to the use of cars, delivery vehicles, coaches, motorbikes and bicycles, its supply and pricing remain surprisingly under- researched, and parking data is sparse.

Q1. 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?

6. Councils should not set out to identify one set of people to take on a greater part of the bill for local expenditure than is already done by the local rate. Profit made from parking provision and enforcement should be ring-fenced for transport and environmental related investment as described in the Traffic Management Act (TMA 2004) and its guidance.

7. Councils get income from the local rating system and from central government grants (often on a per capita basis). Whilst not perfect, these systems appear reasonably fair and equitable. Cars and their drivers play an essential part in supporting the economy of Great Britain. It is not fair to make motorists pay disproportionately for services over and above those they use, or even disproportionately for the disbenefits cars are perceived to incur in a locality,

8. The majority [5] of local authorities operate parking enforcement under Part 6 of the 2004 Traffic Management Act (TMA 2004). The true cost of parking provision in terms of capital, revenue and opportunity costs is not well understood by many people who make decisions at local level. There is evidence that official guidance to TMA 2004 [6] on parking charges is not strictly adhered to, and that councils set parking charges with the likelihood of them realising a surplus. It should be clear to all local authorities that they have no legal powers to set parking charges at a higher level than that needed to achieve the objective of relieving or preventing congestion of traffic.

9. Some seem to be misinterpreting the meaning of s55 of the Road Traffic Management Act attracting accusations from their rate-payers and visitors that they are using parking charges or PCN profit as a ‘stealth tax’. This generally undermines confidence in lawful authority and may discourage car users from visiting town centres.

10. There are some local authorities that make a loss on their parking accounts. In 2010 John Siraut, Economist and Policy Advisor, SKM Colin Buchanan, wrote:

‘For some local authorities parking income helps to offset council tax bills, but for many it is a major drain on resources. Ten councils lost £30m between them in 2008/09. In fact, over 100 councils lost money on parking totalling £58m. To be fair to some of these councils, losses were incurred due to capital expenditures while day-to-day operations were profitable. For others the council may not be seeking to make a profit, but its raises the fundamental question that is ducked by many authorities; what are their objectives of being in the parking business?

11. As an example for the year 2010/11, is the City of London Corporation parking enforcement operation which reported a loss of(£102,772) [7] . It acknowledged a small profit on the 62,372 PCNs issued. However, it is interesting to note that 26% of its PCNs were challenged with a total of 1,465 PCNs subsequently taken to formal appeal, only 235 of which the Corporation contested.

12. In 2010, as a result of calls from the public, the RAC Foundation commissioned Dr Chris Elliott, a barrister, to report on the legality of local authority parking charges. In his report [8] , Dr Elliott said the law clearly stated that on-street parking fees and penalty charges can only be set with the intention of "relieving or preventing congestion of traffic" and covering the cost of administering the schemes. He explained strict rules state that any surplus, with only minor exceptions, must be spent on contributing to the cost of off-street parking, public transport, road improvements and environmental improvements.

13. Although the RAC Foundation believes local authorities should be allowed to choose how to spend parking surplus, such spending must be legal i.e. as allowed by the TMA 2004 and its guidance. Councils should not set out to raise money for any of the items allowed (listed in paragraph 7) or for any other purpose. Whilst we understand that parking cannot be provided free of charge, it is important that local authorities develop transparent policies for parking strategies in which it is made clear who is paying for the parking and why. This would begin to restore trust at local level and perhaps shift the debate from parking as a ‘revenue-raiser’ to parking as a legitimate transport policy which delivers many benefits but cannot be provided free of charge. This is certainly a local issue given the different needs of different communities.

Q3. What impact will new technology, such as cashless parking, parking sensors and CCTV, have on local authority parking enforcement?

14. The RAC Foundation is not able to answer this question definitively. Technology is changing the parking scene rapidly. In just a few years cashless payment for parking and remote enforcement by CCTV is becoming the norm.

15. We believe that in the future, parking could be charged as part of a journey. The price charged for the whole (road use and parking) could reflect the environmental impact on the local authority area, and could be used to help even out the use of local roads and car parks at various times of the day. The tariff would be displayed in-car and on mobile phone displays, and payment would be made electronically.

16. Already the use of parking sensors enables parking spaces to be identified remotely by in-car equipment. However, there is a risk of increased congestion from this system as drivers try to find on-street spaces where tariffs are lowest. Careful reference to existing experience (such as in San Francisco) needs to be made in the planning stages.

17. So far as parking contraventions are concerned, it is clear that CCTV is a useful tool but it needs to be used with discretion. Only true contraventions should be penalised, and as quickly as possible. This is to prevent repeat offences being committed without the motorist knowing that he is contravening a particular traffic order.

Q4. How effective are the Traffic Penalty Tribunal for England and Wales and the Parking and Traffic Appeals Service for London? (The Committee will not be considering individual cases and appeals.)

18. The RAC Foundation believes that both the TPT and PATAS work efficiently to allow motorists wishing to appeal tickets issued by local authorities for parking or bus lane contravention.

19. The introduction of telephone appeals is particularly welcome since it enables motorists to explain their interpretation of events naturally, and for the adjudicators to ask relevant questions. This method of appeal obviously avoids journeys having to be made, time off work taken, and child care or other dependents’ problems. In addition, oral appeals allow equity for some who may have difficulty with written discourse.

20. The Chief Parking Adjudicators have been active in calling for all local authorities to publish a parking annual report. This is not a statutory obligation on the part of local authorities, although the RAC Foundation believes it should be. Without a public record of how and why parking is managed it is difficult to see how a parking policy can be devised and integrated into local transport plans. Section 87 of the Traffic Management Act 2004 gives the Secretary of State the power to publish guidance to local authorities about any matter relating to their functions in connection with the civil enforcement of traffic contraventions. We believe such guidance could include directions to publish an annual report and what that report should contain.

21. In 2009, the Parking and Traffic Regulations Outside London (PATROL) Annual Report Award was launched to promote and share best practice amongst councils in the production of parking annual reports. However, a statutory obligation to produce a parking annual report may ensure that all local authorities do so.

Q5. 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?

22. The RAC Foundation has written extensively about car ownership in London. It is clear that in most matters regarding car ownership, car use, the availability and frequency of public transport, and the use of public transport, London is different from other areas of Great Britain. [9] The value of land, and therefore the cost of land for parking in London is generally higher than in other parts of the country. In many areas, London streets and arterial roads are extremely sensitive to congestion and the causes of congestion (such as illegal parking). Anything that slows vehicle passage has an economic impact, as well as a detrimental effect on air quality. So the consequences of parking in London are more serious than in many other parts of the country and are taken more seriously. Since London demonstrates unique patterns of settlement and travel, it would probably make best sense to consider its parking landscape separately from the rest of country,

Q6. How can local authorities strike a balance between using parking policy to manage congestion and using it to encourage people into town centres?

23. There are two issues to consider here:

a. planning policies regarding retail development in town centres, on the edges of towns, and in out-of-town developments, and

b. parking policies used to manage congestion including:

i. those which may be viewed as deterrents to high street access (an example would be no parking or very expensive parking, possibly with rising tariffs or other time limiting strategies); or

ii. those which may be viewed as encouraging high street access (an example would be free parking, either limited by time or not)

24. The RAC Foundation is aware of how planning policy as a means of controlling retail development has evolved in recent times, and of the various ministerial statements and planning frameworks put in place to enable towns to flourish. Most recently, this comprises the March 2012 National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which replaced all previous relevant planning guidance [10] .

25. The RAC Foundation believes that if local authorities managed parking in

town centres as part of their transport plan, and focused on minimising congestion

whilst maximising accessibility, the result would lead to a coherent approach to parking provision and enforcement.

26. In paragraph 21, we mentioned parking annual reports. In addition to producing an annual report, we believe that local authorities should conduct annual, or at least regular, audits of the amount of parking available by type in their areas.

27. This would enable local authorities to assess how much parking is available for residents, visitors (long term and short term), delivery vehicles, PSVs, car share schemes, bicycles and so on. Local authorities need to know where such parking is available, how much is available and to have tools to assess whether it is adequate for the area’s needs.

28. The RAC Foundation believes that in too many cases local authorities are reactive rather than proactive about parking policy. An example of this behaviour is in the introduction of Controlled Parking Zones (CPZs). Debate about the introduction of CPZs often takes place only when residential parking has been compromised by commuter or non-resident, e.g. student, parking. If local authorities researched present and future demand better, and were able to identify areas where parking problems were likely to arise, they could introduce policies to mitigate those problems.

29. Another example of local authorities being reactive is their willingness to identify expensive or poor quality parking as a reason for the decline of high street shopping. Parking designed for shoppers should not become so expensive nor deteriorate to an extent that it can be used to explain poor retail performance in a town centre. Local authorities should have lifetime plans for the long term maintenance of its car parks and should constantly review its parking tariffs in consultation with local businesses. Parking cannot ever be truly ‘free’ but there should be some debate about how it is charged and for what purpose.

30. In 2011 the Government commissioned retail expert Mary Portas to conduct an independent review of high street economy. The Portas Review [11] set out what Mary Portas thought had led to the decline of the high street and made 28 recommendations about what could be done to breathe life back into them. Amongst her recommendations Ms Portas pointed to properly priced and attractive parking. The Government’s response also mentioned these mechanisms to encourage local economies. [12]

Q7. How can smaller local authorities use parking provision to manage congestion? Do they need to work regionally and strategically with neighbouring councils?

31. The RAC Foundation believes the best evidence here will be gathered from smaller local authorities themselves. However we suggest that where feasible, intermodal exchange to accommodate car parking to access buses/coaches going to town centres and other destinations across a region could be explored. In many examples that we have looked at, motorists have to drive into city centres to access public transport because that is the only place they can park. A better option would edge of town park and ride locations offering transport to destinations other than just the town centre.

Q8. 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?

32. The Workplace Parking Levy (WPL) has been written about extensively and implemented in Nottingham City Centre. The RAC Foundation believes a WPL scheme must be tailored for a community. It must not be seen as a means of generating profit since its potential to drive out business from town centres may result in a loss of income in itself.

Q9. Are there steps local authorities can take, while managing congestion, to make it easier for businesses to trade and make deliveries?

33. Local authorities should regularly consult with the Freight Transport Association, the Road Haulage Association, and the Confederation of Passenger Transport, about parking in town centres. These organisations stay in close touch with their members and keep themselves up to date with current technology. This allows them a good understanding of the problems involved in delivering to the high street.

34. In addition, local authorities should develop a good understanding of demand for parking by ‘white vans’ used for deliveries in their area. The use of ‘white vans’ for delivery is poorly understood but local authorities are well placed to assess its use in their areas and to accommodate it. Allowing short term parking exclusively for loading/unloading where there is a demand should be examined, especially as online shopping increases in popularity.

Q10. Are parking signs clear and comprehensible? To what extent are unclear signs and instructions the cause of breaches of parking control?

35. The Department for Transport recently concluded a signs and lines review (October 2012). The Department has given every local council in England approvals allowing them to use certain new traffic signs and road markings. There is a guidance note [13] explaining what these are and where they can be used. We expect the parking adjudicators to give the most useful feedback on public understanding of the present signage, and of any change to that understanding resulting from new signage.

36. We would expect any ‘hot spots,’ i.e. an area where an unusually high number of tickets is issued, to be identified and rectified at local level. It is cynical of parking managers to know that compliance in particular area is poor and to do nothing about it.


37. In summary, the RAC Foundation argues that local authorities should produce

annual parking accounts and audit parking availability on a regular basis. If local authorities manage parking in town centres as part of their transport plan and focus on minimising congestion whilst maximising accessibility the result will enable a coherent approach to parking provision and enforcement.

38. Other matters mentioned in this consultation such as payment for and revenue from parking, the enforcement of parking controls (including signage), and policies to support the vitality of town centres should all flow from a well designed local transport plan. Even the effectiveness and credibility of the parking and bus lane use penalties’ appeals services depends on motorists having a clear understanding of parking policy and why certain rules are in place.

March 2013

[1] www.racfoundation.org

[2] Analysis of NTS data

[3] http://www.racfoundation.org/assets/rac_foundation/content/downloadables/spaced_out-bates_leibling-jul12.pdf

[4] https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-transport/series/national-travel-survey-statistics

[5] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/36711/la-with-cpe-list.pdf


[6] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/4443/parkingenforcepolicy.pdf

[7] http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/services/transport-and-streets/parking/useful-information/Documents/Parking-Traffic-Enforcement-Report-2010-2011.pdf

[8] http://www.racfoundation.org/assets/rac_foundation/content/downloadables/elliot%20-%20parking%20enforcement%20-%20main%20report%20-%2016082010.pdf


[9] http://www.racfoundation.org/research/mobility/on-the-move-main-research-page


[10] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/6077/2116950.pdf

[11] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-portas-review-the-future-of-our-high-streets


[12] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/high-streets-at-the-heart-of-our-communities-government-response-to-the-mary-portas-review


[13] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/area-wide-authorisations-and-special-directions-guidance-note


Prepared 1st May 2013