Friday, 1 February 2013

Valid parking tickets won't overturn fines under new plans

DRIVERS will have to pay parking fines even if they can show a valid ticket under council plans to plug a financial black hole.

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Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council wants to remove drivers’ right of appeal if they have a valid ticket for parking in its car parks and on streets.

It said it will – apart from ‘exceptional’ cases – only accept a valid ticket with photographic evidence that it was placed correctly.

The council said this “supports the fundamental principal that it is the drivers responsibility to
obtain a ticket and then place it clearly on display before leaving the vehicle”.

It comes after the council scrapped pay on foot machines – where drivers pay before leaving – with pay and display at Mell Square car park from last April in a bid to bring in more cash.

This will be extended to Lode Lane car park from April 1 and the council has said more could follow. Parking charges are being considered for Knowle.

The appeals change is expected to net the council an extra £20,000 a year and help plug a £122,107 shortfall in its civil parking enforcement (CPE) service.

Of the 1,438 tickets cancelled since April, some 529 were scrapped because the driver produced a valid ticket.

Those without a ticket in Mell Square got a warning notice instead of a fine between April and December with 1,054 warnings issued.

But warning notices will be given for one month under future changes

The council took over parking enforcement from West Midlands Police on streets in October 2007 but the service has struggled to break even.

It says not enough drivers are using its car parks and this is reflected in a cut in fines from 20,426 in 2008/09 to an estimated 10,072 this financial year.

Yet a council report accepts the authority “did not make an allowance for any unpredictable and significant economic factors or changes in driver behaviour as a result of the service” when it planned the takeover from police.

And it revealed the council had a £25,700 gap in its budget because of the way it planned the enforcement service.

When it advertised for a firm to run wardens – won by NSL - it said each ticket would be worth £26.90. But the council used the higher figure of £28.52 when setting its budget, leaving a gap.

It said traffic wardens are now “behind the required issue rates” for giving tickets needed to balance the books and this has partly been caused by staff shortages.

A council report says: “In Solihull there have been mixed experiences reported concerning footfall and retail performance figures.

“Throughout the year the  privately operated Touchwood and John Lewis car parks remained the first choice for many visitors to Solihull.

“Overall, the council’s car parks in particular at Lode Lane, Mell Square and Marks and Spencer have not seen an improvement in performance this year.”

Parking wardens have been targeting areas hit by illegal parking because of nearby schools but the report says ‘most’ offences do not result in a ticket.

And it said future enforcement will only take place at schools “where they can bring in additional funding to off-set the overall cost to the CPE service”.

Fines vary from £25 to £70 depending on the type of offence and how soon it is paid.

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