Councils ordered to tone down parking enforcement

Only the most persistent parking offenders should have their wheels clamped, local authorities have been warned in a new overhaul of the parking system.

Draft guidelines from the Department of Transport state clearly that councils should not use parking enforcement as a way of making money, but simply to ease congestion and keep their local roads safe.

They would require local authorities to publish regular reports on how much they are making from parking, and what their policies are, and also call for better training for traffic wardens, who have been renamed civil enforcement officers.

The guidelines will apply to the 45 per cent of local authority areas where the council enforces parking rules rather than the police, and their publication comes after a highly critical report by MPs last month highlighted major problems in the system.

The transport select committee warned that despite the income from parking fines reaching £1 billion in 2003-04, there was little scrutiny of what was done with it, nor was there much public understanding of why fines were handed out.

Today’s proposals are designed to persuade motorists that parking restrictions are there for their safety, not to boost their local council’s coffers, and include a more “motorist-friendly” appeal process and more powers for independent adjudicators in disputed cases.

Only the worst offenders will face having their wheels clamped, while a new nationwide database will be set up to identify those motorists who consistently break the law.

“The government is determined to see a parking system that is fairer and more consistent. These proposals are a significant stride towards achieving that goal,” said transport secretary Douglas Alexander.

“We have listened to motorists and it is clear that the current system needs to be improved.

“Taken together, the proposals in this draft guidance will strengthen the system of civil parking enforcement and help local authorities tackle local congestion and keep the traffic moving.”

However, the guidelines fail to address one of the committee’s central concerns, that the division of parking authorities in England between councils and the police is “unacceptable” and should be ended in favour of one, single decriminalised system.

Today’s proposals are open for consultation until September, and the government hopes to introduce them by next year.