Hounslow Plans To Harmonise Parking Slammed

Unions say joint service with other boroughs 'almost certain' to lead to higher charges

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Local unions have said they are concerned over Hounslow Council plans to amalgamate parking and traffic enforcement services with Brent and Ealing Councils in a bid to save money. And they warn the plan could lead to higher parking charges in Hounslow if parking charges were harmonised across three boroughs. At the moment Hounslow has the lowest rates and the unions sat they are 'almost certain' to go up.

The plan, which Hounslow says would save tens of thousands of pounds per year, was due for cabinet approval tomorrow (March 11), as the Councils involved are shortly to announce the preferred bidder.

The meeting has now been postponed. The scheme is due to come into operation in July 2013 but Unison and Unite have said they are concerned the changes will lead to job losses in Hounslow, and potentially higher parking charges in the borough. They also claim it will mean a drop in the quality of services - a claim that Hounslow Council has rejected. The council says the new scheme would improve services and protect frontline jobs.

Union and Unite said in a joint statement: "We are extremely concerned about these proposals, and fear that - once parking services are under the day to day control of a private company out to make a profit - this will not be a good deal for the residents of the borough, not a good deal for the Authority, and not a good deal for our members who work in the Parking Service."

The unions point to media reports of 'dodgy' practices by certain private operators in the sector including issuing quotas for PCNs issued.

A decision is expected to be taken in the next fortnight by the three Councils involved.

A spokesman for the West London Alliance said: “The three councils have not yet taken their decision on the recommendations, and the announcement of the successful bidder won’t be made until after all three have completed that process. Obviously there will be speculation about the shape of the new service, but it is just that – speculation. In the near future, we will be able to address the facts with staff, unions and most importantly, residents.

“What we can say is that this project aims to offer a substantially better service for residents and motorists across three boroughs. It is not about making money; it is about improving services and protecting front line jobs. It will also help us deliver, through better use of technology, many of the things residents in Hounslow tell us they want, such as being able to apply for permits on line and cashless parking.”

A report presented by Cllr Ed Mayne, cabinet member with responsibility for parking last September to cabinet based on a feasibility study on outsourcing concluded that there was likely to be "a significant cost saving for L.B. Hounslow from tendering various parking and traffic enforcement services and that these savings can be further increased if the tendering is undertaken in collaboration with other boroughs rather than by Hounslow alone."

In July 2012 L.B Brent and L.B Ealing both agreed to proceed with a collaborative procurement involving Hounslow. L.B. Brent outsourced all of its parking services in the 1990s and is now on the point of re-tendering these services with a new contract due to start in July 2013. L.B Ealing has already outsourced part of its parking services but is been keen to explore the potential for further savings through collaboration.

A “soft” market testing exercise demonstrated significant potential savings for all, but especially for a newly outsourcing authority like Hounslow.

Broadly speaking, the Council’s parking and traffic enforcement service includes:

• the management of 24 off-street car parks

• the management of on-street parking facilities and pay-and-display machines

• the issuing of resident and business parking permits

• the enforcement of parking controls through penalty charge notices (PCNs) and vehicle tow away where necessary

• (most recently) the enforcement of moving traffic offences such as making of banned turns.

In Hounslow, these services are currently provided predominantly in-house, both through their on-street civil enforcement officers and back office staff at the Civic Centre who organise permits and who process PCNs and the subsequent correspondence and appeals received. Other enforcement work, undertaken through CCTV monitoring, is delivered by contractors, as is vehicle removal and bailiff work.

The statement from the unions said that at the time of writing, they still haven’t seen the names of the remaining bidders, nor the details of how they propose to save money on the contract.


March 8, 2013