Is it time to put the brakes on city’s parking wardens?

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Have your say

In the wake of news that one in six tickets issued in Edinburgh 
is cancelled on appeal, we hear both sides of the argument for reining in the attendants.

Yes

By John O’Connell

MANY motorists now perceive parking enforcement as a money-spinning exercise. Given that nearly half of all appeals in Edinburgh in the last year were upheld, perhaps they could be forgiven for thinking that.

This has no doubt been exacerbated by that fact that councils can now keep the proceeds from parking fines. When this rule was introduced in 1991, the money was supposed to be ring-fenced for local transportation and environment improvements. But councils achieving good performance ratings had the freedom to spend the surplus how they wished.

For anyone who has ever received traffic or parking tickets when money’s a bit tight, the threat of having to hand over a nice chunk of change to cover it can be hugely daunting and quite stressful, so tickets are not something that traffic wardens should dish out lightly.

We’ve all heard the stories of wardens lacking common sense or a little understanding for real-world situations, and that can undermine confidence in the whole system itself. Successful parking enforcement needn’t mean necessitating over-zealous wardens, or councillors who treat parking tickets as a cash cow.

Local authorities no doubt face major transport challenges in their local areas. It’s important that roads are clear when they are supposed to be so that people can get to their jobs and keep the local economy ticking over. Once rules are in place, it’s important that motorists do their best to stick to them.

But wardens also must demonstrate common sense and understanding. Appeals processes should be as quick as possible and transparent too. If Edinburgh City Council really needs some spare cash, it could try cutting the pay of the 12 executives on more than £100,000, or cut down on the thousands of expensive calls made to the speaking clock.

That has to be better than hitting motorists with more parking fines.

• John O’Connell is research director of the Taxpayers’ Alliance

No

By Lesley Hinds

In a city as compact as Edinburgh, it is absolutely crucial that we keep traffic flowing smoothly so everyone can go about their daily lives as easily as possible. Mindful of this, since becoming the convener of transport I have identified a number of areas of transport I plan to look at, and parking is one of them.

Parking regulations play a key role in keeping the city moving. Properly parked vehicles do not obstruct traffic or present a risk to other road users and all motorists who abide by the regulations will avoid parking tickets. Parking attendants are employed to make sure that traffic flows as freely as possible by making sure that cars are parked correctly. They will not ignore a car which is breaching these rules, and will continue to issue tickets whenever they see this happening.

How frustrating is it when you return to your car and you have a parking ticket? If like me you have had that experience when it wasn’t your fault, you can appeal against the parking fine.

Where tickets are issued incorrectly, these are cancelled and we would always encourage drivers who feel they have been given a ticket in error to get in touch. Only a tiny percentage of tickets (0.53 per cent of all tickets issued in 2011-12) are cancelled due to simple human error on the part of an attendant.

As part of a customer-focused approach, we cancel a number of tickets each year (44.9 per cent of cancelled tickets) in the first instance if a driver has made a genuine error, for example it is far more common for a ticket to be quashed because the driver has failed to display their blue badge (7.5 per cent), residents’ permit (6.3 per cent) or parking voucher (20.5 per cent) clearly.

Contrary to popular opinion, we do not seek to make money from parking tickets – our goal is to achieve 100 per cent compliance which would result in no parking tickets being issued. At more than £5 million for 2011-12, we’re clearly some way off this yet, but income is falling (it was in excess of £7m in 2005-6), thanks to greater levels of compliance by drivers and increased use of schemes such as park-and-ride.

Importantly, whatever income is generated through parking tickets is fed back into Edinburgh’s roads infrastructure, meaning that all road users ultimately benefit.

• Lesley Hinds is transport convener at Edinburgh City Council

A FINE MESS

ALMOST one in six parking tickets handed out in the Capital over the last two years has been issued wrongly.

Figures revealed in the Evening News yesterday told that of the 388,039 fines slapped on motorists, 59,144 were later ruled invalid following an appeal.

At the standard rate of £30 per ticket, this comes to £1,774,320 saved by motorists across the city thanks to wardens dishing out 80 incorrect tickets every day.

Last year, half of the people who appealed their fine saw it scrapped.