Spotlight Falls on 'Shocking' Parking Contracts

Action in Ealing appears to contrast with inertia in Hounslow

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The spotlight is falling on the nature of arrangement between Council's and the firms responsible for parking enforcement following the publication by Ealing Council of the details of the contract signed by the previous administration. The leader of the new Council has described the terms as shocking and slammed his predecessors as incompetent for signing it.

This gave the company managing the parking attendants in the borough a fixed bounty per penalty charge notice. This bounty actually increased once a certain number of tickets have been issued.

The contract paid the contractor £4.69 per ticket up to 170,000 tickets, and £9.79 for each PCN above 170,000. This offered a huge financial incentive for the contractor to issue as many tickets as possible, and yet there were no penalties for issuing false tickets. Concerns have been raised that such arrangements may have been illegal as Councils are not supposed to use parking enforcement primarily as a means of raising revenue.

The leader of Ealing Council, Jason Stacey said, “They managed to clobber the motorist by encouraging excessive issuing of parking tickets, whilst simultaneously delivering bad value for Council taxpayers in terms of costs. It really was an appalling contract, and is symptomatic of Labour’s incompetence in dealing with outside companies"

He has overseen the introduction of a new contract which he claims provides no link between the number of tickets issue and the return to the contractor and has financial penalties for any unfairly issued tickets. He believes that the contract will also deliver savings of £410,000.

The new Council in Ealing have pledged a fairer and clearer policy of parking and other traffic enforcement including the standardisation of car park times across the borough and free parking on Bank Holidays. This contrasts with the administration in Hounslow, which also switched from Labour to Conservative, which rather than looking to respond to residents concerns about unfair parking enforcement, is seeking to ramp up the level of revenue it gets from parking tickets.

Hounslow's new Executive have endorsed a report entitled "Draft of Best Value Performance Plan: Performance Indicators 2005/06". The report states that the target for parking tickets issued in the financial year 2005/06 of 105,000 was not achieved with 'only' 92,773 being issued. The target for this year was set at 120,000 tickets to be issued an increase of nearly 30%

The pressure to increase revenue from parking sources is being felt within the borough. Residents of the Chiswick area who believed that the prevalence of tow trucks in their area was a result of discriminatory policies by the old regime have been disappointed to see that, if anything, towing for minor parking violations in the area has intensified and there is little if any response from local councillors when questioned about the matter. The Conservative administration in Camden totally scrapped towing cars for parking violations when they took control of the Council.

A spokesperson for Hounslow Council denied that any financial incentive is given to the firms they employ for parking enforcement to increase the number of tickets. They also dismiss suggestions that Parking Attendants receive bonuses for giving out extra incentives. They say that the planned increase in parking tickets to be issued in the current year is down to short staffing in the area of parking enforcement.

At a recent Chiswick Area Committee meeting, the Chair, Cllr Paul Lynch announced a special one topic meeting was to be held on the issue of parking. This consultation exercise is in advance of an assessment of parking policy in the borough which is to take place by spring 2007. The meeting will take place on 18th October.

October 11, 2006