Commons Gate

Finding A Space For Parking Policy (HC 748-ii)

Transport Committee 14 Dec 2005

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Evidence given by Mr Edmund King, Executive Director, RAC Foundation; Mr Paul Watters, Head of Roads and Transport Policy, AA Motoring Trust; Mr Chris Welsh, General Manager, Campaigns, Freight Transport Association; and Mr Mike Bracey, Chairman, Brewery Logistics Group; Ms Caroline Sheppard, Chief Parking Adjudicator for England and Wales; and Mr Martin Wood, Chief Parking Adjudicator for London, PATAS; Ms Karen Buck, a Member of the House, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, and Mr Mike Talbot, Head of Traffic Management Division, Department for Transport.

Q261 Mr. Eric Martlew: Before I get to the specifics, I am a bit confused by the evidence that we have received. It seems that you all want annual reports, you all want compensation paid, you do not think they pay the people who issue the parking tickets enough, the back-office people are too junior, but how do you expect this to be paid for? Is this to come from putting up the fines or should it come out of council tax?

Mr King: No, I think there is enough money in parking to actually come from the fines. If you look at the figures, particularly for city boroughs, they make immense profits out of parking, so ----

Q262 Mr. Eric Martlew: That is a general sweeping statement though. Have you got the evidence for that?

Mr King: Well, certainly from Westminster, Camden, areas like that.

Q263 Mr. Eric Martlew: Some of us do live outside of London.

Mr King: Yes, and the bigger metropolitan areas, Manchester, Newcastle, whatever. If it is an efficient system, it need not cost a lot of money, so I think it could be done quite easily.

Mr Watters: The benefits go wider. There are also safety and traffic reasons for doing this and if parking in towns is more logical and more easy, people will use those towns, so there is an economic case to argue for having rules that are reasonably enforced and that places are welcoming, so it should pay for itself arguably.

Mr Welsh: Prior to decriminalisation, we did not have a problem. Industry was able to make deliveries to retail premises ----

Q264 Chairman: Yes, but was that because it was not properly enforced?

Mr Welsh: Sorry?

Q265 Chairman: Was it because the level of enforcement was not adequate?

Mr Welsh: No, I do not think so. Again we have supported the level of enforcement. Where there is clear breach of loading provision or clear breach of the parking rules, then fine, they should be dealt with, but, as I said, it is a complex problem. A lot of loading and unloading bays have been taken out.

Q266 Mr. Eric Martlew: We are talking about parking charges and parking fines. Do you really think that local authorities should have discretion on this or should there be a standard throughout the country, especially on parking fines?

Mr Watters: I think the penalties should be at a reasonably set level, not by the local authority, but by national government probably. We have always taken issue with London having different fees from outside of London in some respects for clamping and towing away in particular, but in terms of how much they charge for the space, that is market forces really, local areas.

Q267 Chairman: Are you asking for an independent audit of traffic regulation orders, signs and lines?

Mr Watters: I think that is called for. I think there is too much doubt about how many do stack up.


Mr Talbot: In addition to the statutory guidance there are various codes of practice being produced, not necessarily by the Department but by others, for example.

Q378 Chairman: Whom for example?

Mr Talbot: The Association of London Government, for example.

Chairman: Yes, but that relates to London. I think Mr Martlew has a point on this.

Q379 Mr. Eric Martlew: Are you producing statutory guidance and statutory regulations and are they going to be separate or are we going to have a third set, by the sound of it?

Ms Buck: There will be both.

Mr Talbot: There will regulations and there will be statutory guidance.

Q380 Mr. Eric Martlew: They will be separate?

Mr Talbot: Yes the regulations are separate.

Mr. Eric Martlew: The regulations and guidance will be different? The adjudicators were querying this when we had them as witnesses before us as to why do we need the two.

Chairman: The regulations are the legal things that authorities must do. The statutory guidance is about giving authorities a steer on how to go about it.

Q381 Mr. Eric Martlew: Why have you put the word "statutory" in front?

Ms Buck: They must take account of the proposals.

Q382 Mr. Eric Martlew: The argument was that really you only needed the one set and it should be the regulations. Can we come on to the adjudicators; a large proportion of the appeals are not contested by the local authorities. Do you believe that compensation should be then given to the people who have appealed?

Ms Buck: Pardon?

Q383 Mr. Eric Martlew: People have been through the system with the local authority and they have turned down their appeal; it has gone to the adjudicator; then the council do not contest that appeal. Do you think that those people who have been through that system should be compensated?

Ms Buck: Mr Talbot, can you help me on this one?

Mr Talbot: Yes I can. There are different reasons why the authority may not contest the appeal and some of those may be because new information has been provided perhaps in the interim. The adjudicators do have some power to award costs but it is costs rather than compensation, and that is the current position that we have taken.

Q384 Mr. Eric Martlew: So you are saying costs are fine but you do not believe that compensation should be given; is that the answer?

Mr Talbot: That is our current position.

Chairman: So we are customer-friendly but not to people who do not pay their fines.

Q385 Mr. Eric Martlew: We have also heard of one particular instance today where a particular local authority had 16 cases found against it for one particular breach of the regulation in one area. What do you do when you have a situation where the local authorities are not taking note of what the adjudicators are saying? Are you going to force them to do that?

Ms Buck: We will certainly be strengthening the powers of the adjudicator to refer back to local authorities in some instances to require them to take account of exceptional circumstances. That is something that will be consulted on in the new year. Obviously again the issue of good practice comes into this very strongly, but I am not sure there is a case that because there are some examples of bad practice there should be a fundamental change in the structure that affects all authorities. I am not sure about that individual case and I will be interested to follow it up in more detail.

Q386 Mr. Eric Martlew: Finally on a different tack, there is the issue of correct signing. We have heard a lot of complaints about incorrect signing. How do you marry that up in a city like Durham or Carlisle or in an area like Westminster with the need to preserve the cityscape itself?

Ms Buck: This is a classic tension between two very reasonable, competing objectives. We do want to reduce street clutter; we do want to maintain the quality of the environment. At the same time it is absolutely clear that the perception of information not being clear to motorists is a major cause of concern. Really the key to this is requiring a regular review and we are insisting certainly where new authorities will be coming into the decriminalised parking enforcement scheme that they should conduct a review of their signage and agree that before they will be given the decriminalised parking enforcement scheme.

This is an uncorrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee. Neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record. The transcript is not yet an approved formal record of these proceedings.

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On behalf of Eric Martlew, 3 Chatsworth Square Carlisle Cumbria CA1 1HB