Councils should publish parking revenue accounts, says transport committee

23 Oct 13
MPs have called on councils in England to be more transparent about where their parking income comes from and how it is used

By Judith Ugwumadu | 23 October 2013

MPs have called on councils in England to be more transparent about where their parking income comes from and how it is used.

The transport select committee today said that annual parking revenue accounts must be published in a bid to address the ‘deep-rooted public perception’ that local authorities use parking enforcement as a money-spinner. 

It added that councils should adopt a common sense approach and give motorists who have paid to park a five-minute grace period before a fine is imposed.

Committee chair Louise Ellman said: ‘The use of parking charges and fines specifically to raise revenue by local authorities is neither acceptable nor legal. Yet, there is a deep-rooted public perception that parking enforcement is used as a cash cow, so it’s essential that local authorities apply stringent transparency.’ 

‘Annual parking accounts would allow the public to see how much local revenue is derived from the enforcement fines, and what proportion of this comes from on or off street parking charges.’

While the setting of parking charges is largely a matter for local authorities, there is greater central government oversight of the setting of penalty charges or fines.

Ellman added that the government should freeze the maximum penalty charge and develop differential fines for less serious parking violations. 

Local authorities currently offer a 50% discount if motorists pay their penalty charge within 14 days. However, this discount is lost if the motorist chooses to appeal to the parking tribunals. This may discourage motorists from appealing against tickets, said the committee. 

To tackle this, Ellman called for a 25% penalty charge discount to be introduced for motorists who pay within seven days of losing any appeal to a parking tribunal. 

She continued: ‘Motorists should not have to appeal against Penalty Charge Notices where adjudicators have repeatedly identified that there is a problem such as poor signage. Local authorities must resolve these sorts of problems and government must impose a statutory requirement on them to refund monies received from invalid PCNs of this kind.’

The MPs also suggested that the government develop business rates relief for local firms that invest in affordable town centre parking solutions. 

Responding to the report, Peter Box, chair of the Local Government Association’s economy and transport board, said that any income councils make from charges and fines are spent on running parking services, fixing potholes and providing subsidised travel to children and the elderly. 

He said: ‘Councils always look to be open and transparent with residents on their parking policies. Many already publish annual reports and adopt a common-sense approach to regulation that includes grace periods for motorists.

‘Local authorities are working hard to try and boost trade and keep high streets vibrant through parking incentives such as free short-stay, cheaper evenings and free Sundays.’ 

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