Association of London Government
Evidence to London Assembly Parking Enforcement Scrutiny
IntroductionTraining Why have parking regulations Use of contracts Controlled Parking Zones Common standardsReviewing regulations Outcomes (boroughs)History of legislation PCNs IssuedReasons for decriminalisation Outcomes (appeals) Objectives Other outcomesBasic procedures FinancePenalty levels PublicityPCN processing AccountabilityThe Parking AdjudicatorsConclusionsOther ALG activities
1. At one time, anyone who drove a car could park where they wanted, without time limit, free of charge. As car numbers have soared those days have gone, but the dream still remains for many. And where yellow lines or parking restrictions prevent drivers from parking where they want, many will take a risk, parking illegally and putting their own needs above other road users’.
2. It is estimated by the ALG1that about 50m illegal parking acts take place each year in London. Many may seem small to the perpetrators, yet they cause congestion, delaying buses in particular and can cause additional casualties.
For example, a driver parking illegally outside a bank to use the cash machine may stop for only two minutes, yet may delay many other people, in cars and buses, trying to get past. Good parking regulations are needed to prevent this and these are valueless if not enforced.
3. In the late 1980s, London’s boroughs waged a campaign to take over responsibility for parking enforcement from the police, who could not give it
any priority. In many parts of London there was parking anarchy and London’s boroughs wished to end that.
4. London’s parking enforcement regime is directed to tackling that level of illegal parking which causes accidents, causes congestion and prevents those permitted, where regulations restrict parking (such as residents or people with disabilities) from getting a parking space. In permitted parking areas it is designed to ensure that drivers may find a parking space easily. However, to achieve that enforcement is needed. And any enforcement activity generates complaints from those who are subject to it, while those who benefit, for example, by finding a parking space easily, rarely acknowledge that good enforcement makes this possible.
5. London’s boroughs look to ensuring that parking enforcement is effective and fair. With the volume of enforcement activity as high as it is it is inevitable that some errors will occur. Consistent results from the parking adjudicators suggest that the London boroughs take the right action in 99.5% of cases2. Yet, even that 0.5% which remain represents 30,000 cases where motorists have not been treated properly from the outset. The London boroughs recognise that more efforts must be made, especially in these areas.
Why have parking regulations6. The issue of parking enforcement cannot be considered without an understanding of the basis for parking regulations. The first parking restrictions were introduced in the 1920s, with the first meters (in Manchester Square) in 1958. In Britain, and in central London in particular, it was not uncommon to find cars double or even triple parked in various locations. A study of road accidents in London in 1947/48 showed an overall increase in accidents of 8% whereas in another part where several miles of road had had parking controls introduced, accidents fell by 31.5%, giving a difference of 40% overall. Studies following the introduction of the new metered controlled zones showed that the number of parking vehicles was halved, and traffic speeds increased by 16% from 8.2mph to 9.6mph. Traffic accidents decreased by 21% in the zone but in similar uncontrolled areas the number of accidents rose by 22%3.
7. The Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 defines the objectives for which parking regulations can be introduced. These can be summarised as:
• Maintenance of access to premises
• Congestion reduction
• Management of the kerb space where demand for parking exceeds supply
Revenue raising is not a lawful objective for introducing parking controls.
8. The precise regulations made will depend on the circumstances at the location.
Regulations introduced for safety reasons are more likely to be in the form of double yellow lines or ‘school entrance – keep clear’ markings. Where congestion reduction is the issue, single yellow lines might suffice. Meters, pay and display bays and residents’ zones are all symptomatic of areas where demand exceeds supply and the local authority must give priority to particular groups of motorists or forms of parking (such as short stay).
9. Typically, residents’ permit holders will be given priority in residential areas, while short stay parking and deliveries will be given priority in town centres and shopping areas.
10. In many locations where such measures are introduced it is not possible to meet all the demand for parking spaces, even for priority users. In many residential areas the demand for residents’ parking now outpaces the supply of spaces. In
mixed use areas, particularly in areas such as Soho, there are competing demands from shoppers, residents and deliveries. Councils frequently must make difficult decisions over allocation of kerb space between these demands.
11. Short stay parking is regulated either by having limited stay free parking bays or by charges. Short stay free parking is difficult to enforce and paid for parking provides a more effective rationing mechanism while also making enforcement
simpler. For further simplification and to improve customer service, meters are giving way to pay and display machines and electronic forms of payment such as mobile phone payments. The Government’s and the ALG’s advice is that parking
charges should be set so as to achieve about 85% occupancy. This ensures that there are always a few spaces available and minimises traffic searching for a parking space and causing congestion. This rationale leads to parking charges
of up to £4 an hour in central London.
12. Many traders would like to see lower parking charges, yet research by LPAC4 and in Europe (through the COST 342 project)5 shows that there is no correlation between parking charges and economic vitality of a centre. Several cities in
Europe have tried to introduce an initial free period of parking (such as 30 minutes) to encourage retailing. Evidence, here6, shows that this has no impact on economic activity but adds to congestion while cars hunt for a free parking space.
Controlled Parking Zones13. Controlled Parking Zones (CPZs) are areas where parking on every part of every street is controlled. They are typically introduced in town centres and residents’ parking areas. They are different from introducing individual elements of parking control (such as a length of yellow line) in that the standard hours of operation are displayed on entry signs to the area, dispensing with the need for individual signs on posts for each stretch of regulation unless hours of operation are different. This approach has the advantage of a significant reduction in sign clutter on streets. However, at the same time, CPZs that are too big can mean that motorists miss the entry signs and therefore the hours of operation and confusion may then result.
14. Any type of controlled parking zone is difficult and expensive to introduce, both in terms of the equipment and signs on the street and in terms of the procedures and consultations that must be gone through. Councils do not, therefore, introduce such zones except, in general, where there is public support for them. This may result, in the short term, in parking being displaced from one street to another, but this is a more satisfactory approach to the public as a whole than attempting to introduce a zone into any area where a majority oppose it.
15. Currently, all or most of the following boroughs are covered by CPZs
• City of London
• Kensington & Chelsea
• Hammersmith & Fulham
16. Much of the remaining area of inner London is covered by CPZs while, in outer London, CPZs cover town centres and residential areas around railheads.
17. The argument is frequently made that hours of operation of zones should be common throughout London. Yet activities vary in different parts of London.The City of London, for example, is busy during the week but quiet at weekends, while the West End is busy on a Saturday and many town centres now find that Sunday is their second busiest shopping day of the week. Many areas which are busy during the day become quiet in the evenings, yet places such as Soho and Bayswater experience serious parking congestion until late in the evening.
18. Any attempt to impose constant hours of operation would leave some areas controlled at times where there was no need for the control while other areas would be uncontrolled while still busy. This would not be in anyone’s interest.
19. The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions7 specify in precise detail the signs that must be used to indicate parking restrictions. Where there is an unusual or non-standard type of restriction the Department for Transport must specifically authorise each sign (and, often, its location).
20. It is axiomatic that there is no point in having parking (or traffic) regulations if these are not enforced.
Reviewing regulations21. Traditionally, parking regulations were reviewed rarely, if at all. Where enforcement was limited or non-existent, an out of date regulation made little difference. The onset of tougher enforcement through the decriminalised regime changed that. Government advice urged councils to review regulations and, in practice, the political accountability for enforcement meant that councils found it hard to continue enforcing regulations that could not be justified. Nowadays, parking regulations are, in practice, under continual review.
History of legislation22. Parking enforcement was traditionally the responsibility of the Metropolitan and City police forces. Traffic wardens were introduced in 1969 to supplement the work of police officers in this area as police officers were unable to enforce the regulations effectively and lack of enforcement was an issue even then.
23. However, even with traffic wardens, enforcement was still not being carried out effectively and several reports in the 1980s, notably the National Audit Office’s ‘Fine Lines’ (1989), drew attention to then problems this caused.
24. Following lobbying by the London boroughs, the Road Traffic Act 1991 provided for the decriminalisation of parking enforcement and its transfer to local authorities in special parking areas (SPAs). In London, SPAs were created to cover the whole of London, except for the red route network, the Whitehall security zone and the Royal Parks. These became operational during 1993/94 with a pilot scheme starting in part of Wandsworth in July 1993
25. Subsequent legislation in London Local Authorities Acts in 1995, 2000 and London Local Authorities and Transport for London Act 2003 modified the 1991 Act, while the London Local Authorities Act 1996 provided for local authority enforcement of bus lanes and the joint 2003 Act provides for decriminalised enforcement of other moving traffic offences, such as box junctions.
26. The Traffic Management Act 2004 consolidates this legislation and extends the provisions contained in the London Acts to the rest of the country.
Reasons for decriminalisation27. The reasons for decriminalisation are found in the inability of the police to enforce parking regulations effectively. Studies in the 1980s indicate that only 1 illegal parking act in 100 was penalised and more than 50% of those fixed penalty notices (FPNs) issued did not result in the penalty being paid. The Metropolitan Police, quite understandably, did not consider parking enforcement at all a priority and resources were limited. For example, a traffic warden force of 2,200 in the MPS in the early 1970s had diminished to 1,100 by the end of the 1980s. Patrols by Traffic Wardens became more and more sporadic to the point where some areas of RB Kensington & Chelsea would only be “enforced” by a mobile squad of 5 or 6 wardens for a couple of hours per week. Resource shortages in processing areas meant that large numbers of FPNs were written off systematically in order to clear backlogs8. Notwithstanding that, the MPS parking enforcement service cost the public purse nearly £40m in 19889.
28. Police culture also worked against effective enforcement of parking regulations as senior police officers saw ‘law abiding’ drivers as part of their ‘natural constituency of support’ and were reluctant to antagonise them with any form of rigorous enforcement.
29. Lack of police enforcement resources also prevented the introduction of new controlled parking zones, even where these were strongly demanded by the public, as the police were not able to provide resources for any enforcement of new CPZs.
30. The result of this was excessive congestion caused by illegal parking – and the debates about the Road Traffic Act 1991 were dominated with this issue both in connection with decriminalisation of parking enforcement and the creation of the red route network – a lack of parking spaces in areas of high demand (particularly in residential areas around rail heads and in shopping areas) and a widespread flouting of parking regulations by drivers. The lack of effective enforcement also resulted in a culture amongst many drivers that compliance with parking regulations was not really expected and that these regulations were to be treated as approximations or as advisory or best practice in a way that would not be accepted for any other type of formal regulation.
Objectives31. The objective for the decriminalised enforcement regime is to ensure compliance with the regulations. As noted above, the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 sets out the only lawful objectives for making parking regulations. Both statute and case law (notably Cran v. LB Camden, 1997) make it clear that any authority that based its enforcement policy on the objective of raising revenue would be acting unlawfully. The Cran case did not find that LB Camden was acting unlawfully in its objectives and confirmed that raising revenue was not an objective for the borough. Despite the widespread allegations that councils are only interested in raising revenue, no evidence has been presented that councils are engaged in such widespread and systematic unlawful activity.
Basic procedures32. The 1991 Act provided for a widespread change in the approach to parking enforcement. On the street, local authority parking attendants were empowered to issue penalty charge notices (PCNs) and to authorise vehicles to be clamped or removed. The Government of the day required this service to be subject to compulsory competitive tendering (CCT) as a way of introducing private sector involvement.
33. From the outset, the overwhelming majority of PCN issue has been computerised, with attendants carrying hand held computers or hand held remote terminals. Parking attendants must also maintain a log book, recording all of their activity and supplementary information about any vehicles issued with a PCN or other incident. This includes, for example, the vehicle’s tax disc serial number and evidence that this has been recorded gives considerable weight to proving the attendant was present beside the vehicle when issuing the PCN. All conversations with the driver of a vehicle are also recorded.
34. Parking attendants must (unless prevented) serve the PCN by fixing it to the vehicle or handing it to the driver or person in charge.
35. An important change introduced at the time was the withholding of much of the traffic wardens’ discretion from parking attendants. Nor are attendants entitled to cancel a PCN after it has been issued. There were a number of reasons for this. First, it would reduce the impact of aggression or corruption on parking attendants, as they could not be forced to cancel PCNs either by aggressive drivers or by the offer of money or other inducements. Second, it improved consistency as local arrangements for a regular traffic warden to turn a ‘blind eye’ to certain forms of illegal parking would no longer be possible (avoiding trouble where a relief traffic warden was not aware of the local arrangement). Third, it ensured that any arguments about exemptions or mitigation would be dealt with at the town hall, rather than on the street, where council officers with specific training could consider the case with more information and more consistency than could a parking attendant. A parking attendant is not the right person to determine if arguments of mitigation are sufficient to warrant cancellation of a PCN.
36. It has been argued that attendants should have discretion to, for example, move on a driver rather than issue a PCN or to ignore very short overstays on parking meters. Where a driver is present in the car they are likely to move on smartly where an attendant appears as no PCN is valid if it has not been given to the driver or fixed to the vehicle (unless the attendant is prevented from serving the PCN). However, there is more of a problem if a driver believes that he could argue an attendant into letting him stop ‘for two minutes’. This might cause serious delays to other traffic, but an attendant could grant this to avoid a confrontation. ‘Moving on’ provides no deterrent for the future and drivers may be more prepared to risk stopping illegally without deterrent. The argument for just a short stop was frequently accepted by traffic wardens, prior to decriminalisation, and while this improved wardens’ relationships with the public, it is doubtful if it had any positive effect on compliance with regulations.
37. A short overstay on a meter presents more of a difficulty because it is entirely coincidental when a parking attendant appears at any particular site. A meter might show only 2 minutes’ penalty but the attendant will not know if the driver intends to return very shortly or not.
38. Overall, it should be noted that a PCN is simply an assertion of a prime-facie case of illegal parking, unlike a fixed penalty notice (FPN) which is issued only where there is a much stronger case against the alleged offender.
Penalty levels39. Decriminalised parking penalties in London are set according to the statutory rules laid down by the Road Traffic Act 1991 (as amended by the Greater London Authority Act 1999). This requires the penalties to be determined by a joint committee of the London boroughs (ALG Transport and Environment Committee) (on borough roads) or TfL (on the TLRN). In each case, the penalties must be confirmed by the Mayor of London and the Secretary of State has a residual right to veto penalty levels if he considers them excessive. Penalty levels are reviewed annually and in depth every four years. Changes to penalty levels are only agreed following widespread consultation with road users and other stakeholders.
40. The principle the ALG TEC has adopted in setting penalties is that the lowest penalty which provides sufficient deterrent with a coherent pattern of penalties should be used. The legislation also provides for a discounted penalty where early payment is made and ALG TEC has determined that this discount should be 50%.
41. At present, three penalty bands apply in London reflecting areas of different parking pressures. Band A applies primarily in inner and central London and the main town centres; band B applies to the rest of outer London; band C is generally used in car parks in outer London.
42. Current penalty levels are:
43. ALG TEC also sets charges for declamping, pound release, vehicle storage and
disposal. These are currently:
|Release from clamp||£65|
|Release from pound||£150|
|Vehicle storage||£25 per day|
44. These charges are all set on the principle that they should cover their costs without making a surplus. In practice, on the basis of data from boroughs, most authorities make a small loss on all of these activities which becomes larger when non-payment from those vehicles not reclaimed form the pound is taken into account.
45. PCNs are processed by local councils following the basic arrangements set down in the 1991 Act. In brief, these set out that:
• If the PCN is paid within 14 days a discount applies
• If the PCN is not paid within 28 days, the council may issue a Notice to Owner (NtO) to the keeper of the vehicle, who is then legally liable for the penalty. The NtO allows for formal representations to be made to the council against liability for the penalty
• If neither payment nor representations are received within 28 days, the council may issue a charge certificate which has the effect of increasing the penalty by 50%
• If the charge certificate is not paid within 14 days, the council may register the penalty as a debt at the county court. This results in a court order requiring the person to pay the penalty at the charge certificate level plus £5 registration charge
• If this is not paid within 21 days, the council may apply for a warrant of execution, allowing bailiffs to seize goods to pay for the debt. By this stage the amount owing will include regulated bailiffs’ fees.
46. There are a number of stages at which the penalty can be challenged. First, immediately after issue of the PCN, the recipient can contest this with the council. This is an informal challenge as it is not part of the statutory procedure and, cannot, of itself, give access to the appeals system. However, councils are encouraged to consider challenges at this stage and the ALG recommends that if an informal challenge is made within 14 days of the issue of the PCN and subsequently rejected by the council, the discount should be reoffered for a further 14 days. Most, if not all councils follow this advice. Councils will accept challenges by a variety of media and about 10% of all PCNs are cancelled at this stage.
47. This level of cancellations should not be seen as evidence of ‘fraudulent’ issue of PCNs, but reflects both production of a case for an exemption (for example for loading or unloading) and consideration of cases of mitigation.
48. Second, the keeper can make formal representations following issue of the Notice to Owner (or on recovery of the vehicle if it has been clamped or removed). These representations must be considered by the council (and, if the vehicle was clamped or removed, are deemed to have been accepted by the council if no response is made within 56 days). The 1991 Act sets out grounds which, if accepted by the council, must result in cancellation of the NtO and, in some cases, cancellation of the PCN. Broadly, these grounds fall into two groups
• That there was no contravention; or
• That there may have been a contravention but that the person sent the NtO was not liable to pay the penalty
At this, and indeed all stages, councils must consider the use of their discretion in mitigating circumstances.
49. If the representations are rejected, the keeper can appeal to the independent adjudicator, who can direct that the NtO (or PCN) is cancelled if he or she considers that one of the statutory grounds has been met. The adjudicator
constitutes a statutory tribunal and an appeal to the adjudicator replaces the previous right to have the case heard in a magistrates’ court.
50. Councils are required to consider the use of their discretion to cancel PCNs on grounds of mitigation at all stages. While most do this, it is clear that as this is an implicit rather than explicit legal requirement, some authorities are not as clear on the matter as they should be. The Local Government Ombudsman has recently published a report on this10. The adjudicator cannot allow an appeal on the grounds of mitigation alone, nor would it help if the adjudicator could do so. If mitigation could be considered on appeal then there would be every incentive for motorists to appeal simply on the basis that the adjudicator might be more sympathetic, rather than on any statutory ground. Adjudicators can and do consider whether the councils have properly considered the use of their discretion and do refer cases back to councils where they think this is warranted. Adjudicators may cancel PCNs where the council has not considered using its discretion on the basis of abuse of process.
51. Finally, if the procedures fail at some stage, when the keeper receives notification of debt registration, a statutory declaration can be made to the effect that:
• No NtO was received
• A representation was made but no response received
• An appeal to the adjudicator was made but no response received If the first of these grounds is made, the NtO is cancelled. In other cases the matter is referred to the adjudicator.
52. All of the procedures operated by the councils and the adjudicators are subject to judicial review in the high court and administrative matters can also be raised through the Local Government Ombudsman.
The Parking Adjudicators53. The parking adjudicators constitute a statutory tribunal to consider appeals against parking penalties and were created under the Road Traffic Act 1991.
Under the Act, the adjudicators are appointed by ALG TEC, subject to confirmation by the Lord Chancellor. Adjudicators are appointed following public advertisement and a selection process agreed with the Department of Constitutional Affairs (DCA), including lay representatives appointed by the DCA. Adjudicators are appointed for 5 years and are re-appointed at the end of their appointment unless they fall within a limited number of categories, such as certified insanity or bankruptcy, or are declared unable to carry out their role properly by a judge appointed by the Lord Chancellor. While adjudicators are paid by the ALG TEC neither payment nor appointment rests in any way on the decisions they make.
54. Adjudicators must be barristers or solicitors of at least five years’ standing. All the adjudicators are part time and a panel of 54 adjudicators, headed by a Chief Adjudicator is currently in place. When considering appeals, adjudicators sit
55. ALG TEC also provides the administrative support for the adjudicators and determines the sitting arrangements. This has been done under the name of the Parking and Traffic Appeals Service.
56. Arrangements for appeals have been set up with the users’ needs in mind:
• Appeals can either be made by post or in person – about 70% are currently made by post
• Personal hearings are heard at the hearing centre in New Zealand House in central London
• Appellants wanting a personal hearing may choose a time of their own convenience. Hearings take place between 8am and 8pm, Monday to Friday and between 8am and 1pm on Saturdays.
• PATAS has a target of seeing personal appellants within 15 minutes of their appointment. This is currently achieved in more than 80% of cases.
• Personal hearings last on average about 20 minutes and the appellant can usually take away a written decision with them.
57. Users show a great deal of satisfaction with these arrangements. User surveys carried out by the ALG (most recently in 2003) show that, while satisfaction depends mainly on the result of the appeal12, over 80%of appellants are generally satisfied with the quality of the process. The Leggat review of tribunals, conducted for the DCA in 2002, described PATAS as ‘the most user focussed aspect of justice’ in the UK.
Other ALG activities
58. ALG provides a number of parking enforcement related services to and on behalf of the London boroughs. Most importantly, it provides the TRACE service, a 24- hour call centre which locates cars which have been removed from any London
street. Information is given to callers on the location of their vehicle, why it was removed and how it may be recovered. TRACE handles nearly 15,000 calls a month.
59. ALG also provides link services between boroughs and outside agencies such as the DVLA and the county court, and services which link boroughs, including a persistent evader database, a ‘ringers’ database and a payment information exchange (which acts as a clearing house for penalty payments made other than directly to the authority concerned).
Training60. Training for all involved with parking enforcement is essential. At the outset of decriminalisation in 1994, the then Parking Committee for London 14set up a certification scheme for attendants and supervisors. This scheme, which measured competencies, was based on three elements:
• Core training
• Local training
• Probationary period
61. The core training was a set standard covering all common aspects of enforcement. Local training took account of matters that varied from one authority to another. The probationary period was 6 months, during which new attendants had to demonstrate that they applied their training correctly.
62. Training was given under employers’ own arrangements by approved training deliverers. External verifiers confirmed that the required training was given and that the attendants had the required competencies. Once the probationary period had been successfully completed, a certificate with a 2-year life was awarded, demonstrating that the attendant had successfully completed all aspects of training for that authority. Verifiers also confirmed that sufficient refresher training had been given for a renewal certificate.
63. Almost all attendants in London, at the time, possessed PCfL certificates.
64. In the late 1990s, this certification scheme was translated into a National Vocational Qualification. This was to get further external verification of the quality of the scheme. However, the NVQ is less satisfactory in a number of ways:
• There is no time limit for a candidate to achieve the qualification
• Once awarded there is no time limit on the qualification
• The qualification is not specific to any authority
• Unlike the PCfL certificate, the fee structure does not provide any incentive
for employers to ensure that their employees achieve the qualification
65. Accordingly, with the British Parking Association the ALG are working to revert to a certification scheme which acts, in effect as a licence to practise. This will also apply to back office staff.
Safety and security of PAs
66. Parking attendants work in difficult circumstances, frequently on their own. While the outcome of their work is beneficial to London, those receiving parking penalties are rarely appreciative of this and many are abusive. Some resort to violence. Across London the level of assaults is rising. On average, more than three parking attendants are assaulted every day in London – a shocking statistic!.
67. Within this total, attendants have been run over, have been assaulted by gangs with baseball bats and have been shot at – all because they issued a parking ticket.
68. There is no specific offence of assaulting a parking attendant on duty, although there are such offences for police officers and traffic wardens. The boroughs have sought to create such an offence through private legislation, most recently
in 2000, but this has not been accepted by Parliament.
69. Response and support from the police has been patchy. Some police stations are pro-active and police officers and parking attendants can work closely together. In Kensington & Chelsea, the MPS and the local authority developed a ‘side by side’ initiative for mutual assistance and support and this has reduced attacks on attendants substantially. This has been extended to other boroughs. Others do little more than treat assaults on parking attendants as common assault and are reluctant to get involved.
70. Boroughs and employers seek to prosecute assaults on parking attendants wherever possible and to publicise convictions.
Use of contracts71. Much activity connected with enforcement is contracted out and a great deal has been made of it. Under the legislation in place in 1991, parking attendant services, clamping and removal services were subject to compulsory competitive
tendering (CCT) and, as a result, about half the London boroughs use contracted out attendants and almost all clamping and removal activity is contracted out.
72. Details of contracts vary and are commercially confidential. However, most contracts provide some incentive for contractors to perform, none provide for straightforward commission payments and none provide limitless incentives for contractors to issue more and more penalties. No incentives or defaults are based solely on PCN issue. Where any ticket targets are included these are usually accompanied by maximum ticket issue numbers and/or tapering payments to contractors as PCN numbers climb. Where PCNs are issued and are subsequently cancelled, contractors will generally lose money as PCNs which are cancelled as a result of attendant error will not count towards any ticket targets.
This gives contractors an incentive not to issue PCNs which may be doubtful.
73. More contracts are based on patrol frequency rather than any PCN issue target. The British Parking Association is currently trialling a model form of contract with LB Hackney. This is based more on disincentives to poor quality behaviour.
74. Individual attendants may be incentivised. Here, again, no parking attendant receives a commission on each ticket issued. No incentive scheme rests wholly or even mainly on PCNs issued. Other factors, such as attendance, appearance
and quality are also important. No parking attendant benefits in any way from issuing a PCN which is subsequently cancelled because of their failure.
75. Initially, almost half the boroughs contracted out processing of PCNs and correspondence, but this activity has now been brought back into house by almost all authorities. Certain aspects, such as consideration of representations and registration of debt must be done by the authorities inhouse.
Common standards76. Common standards are important in a number of areas of activity. The ALG TEC’s predecessor (PCfL) produced a Code of Practice on parking enforcement in 1993. This was updated in 1997 and is being updated again at present. The Code of Practice covers areas such as policies, procedures, priorities and notices and provides guidance over a range of issues
77. In addition to the Code of Practice, the ALG TEC produced a parking attendant’s handbook which details all the contraventions and the various exemptions to them. This also provides standards for ‘de minimis’ rules on contraventions. For example, it suggests that for vehicles parked outside the markings of the bay (offence code 24) there should be at least one wheel wholly outside the markings of the bay before a PCN is issued. Similarly, for vehicles parked on the footway, the ‘de minimis’ rule advised is that there should be at least one wheel wholly on the footway before a PCN is issued.
78. ALG holds regular seminars for parking managers and appeal staff and the Transport and Environment Committee periodically issues advice to boroughs. ALG does not, though, have the powers to enforce such advice and it is not automatically accepted outside London, where authorities develop their own standards individually.
Outcomes (boroughs)79. Over the period from 1970 to 1994 there was, in effect, a moratorium on the creation of new controlled parking zones because of the lack of police resources to enforce them16. This was in spite of increasing demands from the public as the pressure on parking spaces, driven by increased car use, grew. Following decriminalisation in 1994, there has been a big increase in the number of CPZs, in part, catching up with the backlog created during the ‘70s and ‘80s.
80. As mentioned above, CPZs are not created for policy purposes such as reducing car use, but in response to public pressure. Growth in the volume of controls has followed with both more zones and extended hours. Whereas, before 1994, controlled hours finished at 6.30pm (reflecting the fact that traffic wardens would then be off shift), hours now extend until later in the evening and include both Saturday afternoons and Sundays.
81. More than 100 new CPZs or extensions have been created since 1994.
PCNs Issued82. PCN numbers, together with clamps and removals have increased since 1994 as
shown on the diagrams below.
83. In 1991/92, the last full year of police responsibility for parking enforcement, 1.8m Fixed Penalty Notices were issued. By 2003-04, boroughs and TfL were issuing nearly 6m PCNs. The growth in numbers has resulted from:
• New and extended CPZs
• New decriminalised offences, such as bus lanes and moving traffic offences
• The introduction of camera enforcement
• Tougher enforcement of existing regulations
84. Estimates17 in the early 1990s were that less than 1% of illegally parked cars received any form of penalty. That has now grown to an estimated 10% of illegally parked cars receiving any form of penalty. Where CCTV is in use for enforcement, the percentage of contraventions being penalised is much higher, to about 80% (and in some cases higher). In these cases, there is evidence that sustained enforcement is reducing the number of contraventions.
85. Pilot schemes for bus lane enforcement using CCTV showed a dramatic effect (as shown in the diagram below) and those boroughs enforcing bus lanes for more than a year are now seeing a decline in the number of bus lane PCNs being issued.
Outcomes (appeals)86. On average councils receive some form of challenge on nearly 20% of PCNs.
These challenges range from queries over offences and misunderstandings on regulations to exemptions applied for and challenges to the proper issue of the PCN. Many of these are resolved simply on the basis of a telephone call or letter. Fewer PCNs are subject to formal representations. A smaller number still are subject to the appeals process. A little under 1% of PCNs issued result in an appeal to the adjudicator. This percentage has remained broadly constant since 1997-98, although the total number of appeals has grown as the number of PCNs issued has grown. About 20% of appeals registered cover issues of liability (such as the identity of the vehicle keeper) while the remainder challenge the alleged contravention.
87. Appeal rates vary from borough to borough. As much as anything else, this is a result of the borough’s approach to representations. There are three extreme positions which could be taken by a borough:
• To allow most representations with limited customer involvement
• To reject most representations with limited customer involvement
• To engage in high levels of customer involvement on every case.
88. The first option is cheap to operate, has high levels of customer support and results in few appeals to the adjudicator – on the other hand it results in low compliance as motorists know that it is fairly easy to get a PCN cancelled. The second option is also cheap to operate but results in a larger number of appeals and lower customer satisfaction – but it will result in better compliance with regulations. The third option may deal with customers well and will result in few appeals but is very expensive and may result in extensive delays before a case is settled.
89. In practice no borough adopts any of these extreme positions. However, there are many quite legitimate policy positions within this range which will result in different appeal rates. It is, therefore, impossible to draw any conclusions about a borough’s performance from appeal data alone.
90. On average, about 60% of appeals are allowed by the adjudicators, a figure which has remained broadly constant over the years, while the percentage of appeals heard at a personal hearing is also broadly constant and the percentage of appeals not contested by the authorities, at about 30%, is slowly climbing.
Authorities do not contest appeals generally for one of three reasons:
• The appellant provides further information at appeal which, if provided earlier, would have resulted in the appeal being allowed
• A review of the case by a more senior official before the appeal evidence is submitted results in a change of view by the council
• The council does not have sufficient administrative resource to provide sufficient evidence for the appeal
91. Adjudicators may award costs in limited circumstances, where an appellant has been frivolous or vexatious, or where the council has acted wholly unreasonably. In 2003/04, appellants applied for costs in 102 cases and costs were awarded in 37 of these. £2,677 was awarded in costs against councils.
Councils themselves applied for costs in 14 cases. In 13 cases costs totalling £605 were awarded against appellants. All of these occurred in cases where a statutory declaration had been made improperly or incorrectly (for example where an appellant alleges he had appealed to the adjudicator and had no response when an appeal had been made and decided and the appellant had entered into correspondence on the decision).
92. Put together, the appeals outcomes when combined with the attempts made by the PATAS to be as accessible as possible suggest that the system is, overall, very robust. Had the enforcement system in London been seriously wrong there would have been a growing number of appeals and a growing percentage of those appeals allowed.
Other outcomes93. About 20% of PCNs are neither paid nor cancelled but cannot be followed up.
This is mainly because either the keeper cannot be identified or the identified keeper cannot be traced or enforcement action is not possible. Although the DVLA claim that their database is about 96% accurate, the level of identification for PCNs is far lower with no keeper identification for about15% of PCNs. This is either because:
• There is no keeper recorded
• The vehicle is a ringer
• The vehicle is registered outside the UK18
94. In addition, it must be remembered that those people who know they are not on the DVLA database are more likely to ignore parking regulations deliberately.
95. In a smaller number of cases enforcement action cannot be taken either because the keeper has moved and is no longer traceable or because the keeper lives outside the UK where enforcement action can only be undertaken at
Finance96. PCN penalty income is retained by boroughs. This income, together with income from on-street parking charges, must go into a separate parking account, regulated in terms of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. This Act provides that any surplus of income over expenditure can only be used in limited circumstances:
• For the provision of further parking facilities, on or off-street, within or without the borough boundaries; and, where further expenditure on parking facilities is either unnecessary or undesirable
• On public transport facilities, services or improvements
• On highway improvements
• On road maintenance
• On schemes to support the transport strategy of the Mayor of London
• On environmental improvements
97. In this way, much of the cost of Freedom Pass, which provides free public transport for London’s elderly and disabled residents, is funded from parking account surpluses. Indeed, it is unlikely that the Freedom Pass scheme could be sustained in its present form without funding from this source. Hungerford Bridge footbridge and parts of the London Cycle Network are also examples of the use to which parking account surpluses have been put.
98. The Traffic Management Act 2004 provides that for authorities defined as ‘excellent’ under CPA appraisal all limitations are lifted, but this has yet to be brought into effect.
99. Each authority must submit an annual report on their parking account to the Mayor of London, including an account of what use has been made of any surpluses.
100. Most, but not all, boroughs make some surplus on their parking accounts. However, the main reason for any surplus rests with parking charges rather than parking penalties. As described above, authorities are advised that parking charges should be set on a market basis, so that about 85% occupancy is achieved. In many authorities, charges are lower than this. Parking enforcement on its own is normally little more than self-financing.
101. For 2002/03, the London authorities made a total income in parking accounts of about £300m. Against this, operational costs accounted for about £185m, leaving a surplus of about £115m. Income and expenditure figures for boroughs for 2002-03 are shown in an appendix
Publicity102. All parking regulations, parking penalty levels and their application are subject to consultation with residents, users and other stakeholders before a final decision is made. The case of Cran v LB Camden (1997) made clear the approach that boroughs must have towards consultation, particularly that it must be thorough and open minded.
103. All parking regulations must also be properly signed. The Department for Transport lays out in regulations (The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002) the design and layout of signs. Any regulations which are not signed in accordance with these regulations are unenforceable.
104. Opinion surveys are regularly carried out on enforcement. In autumn 2003, the ALG’s Survey of Londoners revealed that 50% of Londoners considered parking enforcement to be too lax, while 19% considered it to be too strict. 31% thought it was about right. In 2004, views had shifted with 29% now considering parking enforcement to be too lenient (40% for bus lanes), 38% considering it to be about right (35% for bus lanes) and 25% considering it to be too strict (18% for bus lanes).
105. While there has been a lot of negative publicity, particularly early in 2004, it is hard to conclude that this indicates majority discontent with the parking enforcement regime. While it is accepted that there are instances of poor or unacceptable behaviour, these do appear to be in a small minority of occasions. Within such a large scale exercise, however, even a small percentage represents a large number, giving ample scope for reportage. In some cases reports have been fictitious for example, films purporting to show attendants attacking motorists. In other cases only a partial story – solely the motorist’s view is told. Authorities are always cautious about letting individual incidents develop into a ‘trial by media’, especially where (as in most cases) the issue has not come before an adjudicator.
106. This should not be taken to mean that authorities do not take reported case seriously.
107. Having said that the media coverage may not give a true representation of parking enforcement, it does provide an incentive for further assaults on parking attendants. Lurid stories of poor or mercenary behaviour by attendants are used by some to justify aggressive behaviour in return. Given the high level of assaults, such reportage helps make a bad situation worse.
Accountability108. Unlike most law enforcement, elected councillors are directly responsible for the policies towards enforcement in their authority (local councillors do not get involved with decisions on individual parking penalties). In its own right this provides better safeguards against excesses than might occur elsewhere. It also ensures that there is a proper feedback from voters to the council on policies.
109. In many cases, parking enforcement activities have been subject to detailed local scrutiny. For example, a major scrutiny in LB Lambeth was completed in 2004 while LB Camden is undertaking its own scrutiny at present.
110. This level of scrutiny and accountability is unmatched elsewhere in the enforcement systems in the UK where operational independence of police commissioners and chief constables and judicial independence of the courts prevent detailed examination.
Conclusions111. Overall, London’s parking enforcement regime provides an approach which reduces congestion and accidents and which regulates use of the kerb space more effectively than its predecessor and does so at no net cost to the public. Any approach to increasing enforcement is bound to bring complaints from those who previously were able to get away with unlawful behaviour for their own benefit.
112. Within that the statutory approach to challenges to penalties, ending up with the independent adjudicator, provides a demonstrably robust system.
113. This is not to say that there are neither errors made nor improvements that can be made. London’s local authorities actively review their own arrangements to look for these and will continue to do this.