Parliament pushes parking ticket discounts for UK

November 4, 2013

Parking ticket discounts… not for paying a parking ticket, but for fighting it? The policy is in place in at least two cities in the United States (New York and Louisville), and now Members of Parliament (MPs) are proposing the same for the UK. Currently, motorists issued parking citations receive a 50 percent parking ticket discount — worth up to £65 — if they pay their fines early. Under the proposed changes, that figure would drop to 25 percent if the appeal fails, and the discount would only hold if the unsuccessful appellant paid the fine within seven days.

Audi being ticketed in UK

Members of Parliament are encouraging motorists to fight their parking tickets – and have proposed discounts as encouragement. From Lars Plougmann.

The proposal was drafted by the Transport Select Committee, which moved to study the issue when soaring revenues that councils were receiving from parking charges and fines came to light. Westminster, for example, received surplus revenues of approximately £38 million from citations issued between 2010 and 2011; the latest figures show that more than 350 councils will net a £365 million profit this year.

So, even as traffic volumes fall, local authorities have seen a rise in parking income in recent years—and may yet witness greater increases. Some councils have been lobbying Minister of State Norman Baker to raise the maximum parking fine for areas outside of London from £70 to £130, the highest penalty that can be given in Central London. That figure is £30 higher than the fine levied for violations such as driving while using a hand-held phone.

Committee chair Louise Ellman told the media that it was “hard to justify fines that substantially exceed penalties for more serious offenses like speeding.”

Eighty percent of local authorities, which can now control parking in their area and retain the surplus income, are also requesting that they be allowed to use the surplus as they wish. Currently, councils may only use it for transit projects; MPs rejected the request, but the parking industry has appealed the decision.

The revelation that town halls are receiving significant profits from parking citations has raised concerns among drivers and the organizations that represent them. Traffic wardens are particular targets of displeasure for the public, who, MPs said, are characterizing themselves as “cash cows.”

Wrote Central London resident Sapphira Al Rais in an email, “You will routinely see traffic wardens waiting for the clock to tick past the point so that they can immediately slap a ticket on someone’s window. I have often run toward my car and pleaded with the guy not to finish writing it, only to have him ignore me . . . Those tickets I have successfully challenged and not paid.”

“Many people will not risk doing that and paying the total fine because the process takes forever, and you’re guaranteed to go past the half-price discount deadline if you challenge the ticket,” she continued.

With only 1 percent of parking fines ever appealed, it seems Al Rais has a point. Recalling two tickets issued to her, former Brighton resident Katheryn Tradewell wrote in an email, “I could not be bothered to contest either.”

But, argued a spokesperson for the Local Government Association earlier this year, the low number of appeals demonstrates “that, in the vast majority of cases, wardens get it right.”

Northern Constabulary traffic warden

A Northern Constabulary traffic warden’s car in Scotland. From Dave Connor.

Representatives for motorists question that claim, pointing out the use of CCTV cameras to capture parking violations. The Department of Transport only recommends the use of CCTV cameras when traffic wardens cannot practically carry out the work, yet drivers’ groups say the cameras are used regularly.

In addition, offenses captured by the cameras mean motorists aren’t aware of the violations until a ticket is received in the mail, making it that much harder to challenge the claim.

Whether or not the proposed changes pass remains to be seen, but the issue promises to remain a hot topic in the weeks ahead.

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Category: Miscellaneous, No Parking

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