Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Parking tickets increase to tackle council cash fears

THE number of parking tickets given out in Solihull has rocketed following concerns the outsourced service would not break even.

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Penalty Charge Notices (PCN) rose from 824 in April last year to 1,388 a year later and 1,090 in May 2012 to 1,350 the same month this year.

Enforcement of illegal street parking and contraventions in Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council (SMBC) car parks was handed to firm NSL in October 2011 by the council.

Yet there were concerns the service would not at least break even, a legal obligation of the outsourcing deal.

This added to the council’s cash crisis over its car parks as the number of visitors to council facilities fall.

Now a council report says the increase in parking tickets handed out has turned around NSL’s fortunes.

It says: “This improved level of performance has continued during the first two months of this financial year and as a result, it is expected the service could achieve our aim and deliver a cost neutral service.”

And “intensive” enforcement at Dorridge Junior and Infant School is to be cut back partly because this “had an impact on the service’s ability to achieve its PCN issue rate”.

The school was one of ten that got extra wardens but the report says this has also taken attention off other schools.

It said wardens had not made enough cash. It said: “They have provided a valuable traffic management service but this has led to very few parking contraventions being realised.”

The council’s approach to parking has caused controversy.

In December it scrapped pay-on-foot machines – where people pay when leaving – in favour of pay and display at Mell Square. This was extended to Lode Lane car park in April.

Bosses then urged hotels and Morrisons supermarket to scrap free parking as Mell Square bosses said the new payment system was putting shoppers off.

Drivers were also hit by the recent scrapping of the option of a £1.30 one-hour stay and reduced Sunday fares at non-council Touchwood car park. Tickets now start at £2.30 for two hours.

Council bosses – which had the final say as the development is on SMBC land – said this could have a “small benefit” for authority car parks.

It comes as the authority recently warned drivers who leave their tickets upside down face fines.

Charges are also to be introduced for stays longer than three hours in Knowle in a bid to bring in cash and free up spaces.
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