At last: a common sense view of parking enforcement

Transport Minister Rosie Winterton could have been accused of stating the obvious when she spoke of a perception that motorists are unfairly penalised by parking attendants only interested in issuing as many tickets as possible . Still, it was an impor

Transport Minister Rosie Winterton could have been accused of stating the obvious when she spoke of a perception that motorists are ''unfairly penalised by parking attendants only interested in issuing as many tickets as possible''.

Still, it was an important statement for a minister to make, an acknowledgement that something serious was amiss. To that end she also spoke of the importance of increasing public confidence in local authority parking regimes.

In recent years Camden Council has been among London's highest revenue-earners from parking fines. This is partly circumstantial, but is also a result of strict enforcement policies of the type Rosie Winterton describes.

If she is right, it is worth pondering why wardens should behave in this way. Why should they only be interested in ''issuing as many tickets as possible'' unless of course there is a cash or career incentive?


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Camden Council has always denied that this is the case, but do they really know how the big parking contractors are conducting their internal affairs? Wardens have broken ranks before to tell this newspaper the same story: that they are under considerable pressure to hand out a quota of tickets. Not all the pressure is of a financial nature.

To paraphrase Rosie Winterton, it would be fair to say that there is a perception among traffic wardens that they are expected to issue as many tickets as possible.

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Camden's regime has improved but there are still too many complaints of parking enforcement incidents that border on the farcical. This will always be the case until a far deeper examination of enforcement methods is undertaken.

A root cause of the problem is that the revenue-earning aspects have become an essential part of council budgeting. Parking tickets should denote an offence, albeit one of minor proportions. Every year councils expect the number of offences to increase, or, at worst, to remain static.

This suggests no let-up in the rate at which tickets are issued (ergo no reduction in the number of offences committed). Imagine the consequences if police officers were told that they had to arrest more people to make up their wages and secure their employment. Imagine the outcry if Camden's police chief issued figures saying that he expected crime to increase in the borough.

Like many councils, Camden has over-stepped its remit in terms of parking controls and Rosie Winterton is saying that it is now time for a fairer, friendlier regime. There have been some improvements, but there is still a very long way to go.

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