Parking report published

Launched the London Assembly’s Parking Enforcement Report.

Having sweated blood over this one – I have been waiting to launch the report safely before leaving the Assembly. I do media from 6.30am to around 2pm – and off it goes.

I am really pleased with this piece of work. Whilst it won’t change overnight some of the unfair practises that go on in parking enforcement in London it has already begun to reign in some of the worst practises.

The main findings and recommendations are to do with stopping confusion – such as poor signs or simply stupid and confusing parking regulations – and we ask for common sense to be applied in parking regs – i.e. not four different rules on one street and stuff like that. The problem isn’t just between boroughs – but within boroughs – and sometimes in one street. We recognised that you cannot have a one size fits all across London. There are just too many different local situations – but it can be soooooooo much better than it is.

Also – the whole system rests on the public doing the work to rectify the situation if they are issued with a ‘wrong’ ticket. Rather than have simple rules that well-trained parking attendants can apply fairly – they don’t seem to really mind about wrongly issued tickets. One fifth of representations by motorists to councils are granted and two thirds that go onto appeals process are found in favour of motorist. I think it is this that drives the public mad.

The Transport Committee is also recommending a variation in penalty charge to reflect the seriousness or otherwise of the ‘offence’.

I suppose (and I don’t want to go into the whole report here – it is worth a read) the most controversial bit of the parking issue is the public’s belief that tickets are a way of raking in revenue rather than the stated purpose of parking regulation and enforcement – which is to improve road safety and traffic flow.

We (the Transport Committee) were threatened with legal action by the Association of London Government in the middle of one of the evidence sessions if we were to come out with findings in our report which stated or inferred that revenue raising was the purpose of regulation and enforcement. Such practise would be illegal.

We didn’t receive explicit evidence of this. The nearest we could get was the witnesses to the first session (including the CEO of NCP) stating that councils put the expected revenue into their budget projections. Whilst entirely natural – and the ALG said based on experience – the witnesses clearly thought this dictated a degree of expectation about revenue which if reduced in any way might jeopardise a council’s budget – well that was my interpretation.

But no explicit evidence that would stand up in court. However, I do believe that under the new Freedom of Information Act there will be revealed a whole raft of things that various individuals or groups – incensed by perceived ‘unfairness’ – are currently pursuing.

One thing we did receive late on was a scanned version of what looked like a contract between a company operating the parking enforcement for a borough and their parking attendants which clearly states that for increased revenue they will be given Argos vouchers and states targets for tickets.

Just announcing this investigation brought in its wake changes by councils – my hope is that this continues and that parking enforcement becomes something that people feel happy complying with because it is administered fairly and openly.

In the afternoon, I had a meeting with the Chief Executive of Haringey Council. I go to the CE’s new office in their new building – River Park House. It is my first visit and looks a good working environment. This is important – and I think giving staff decent conditions to work in produces better services, so I don’t begrudge them their new building.

We go through my ‘issues’ which include: Red Gables, school places, the replacement of the childrens’ play equipment at Campsbourne and Hornsey Town Hall.