Councils have a balance in treating motorists fairly with maintaining traffic flow and not stinging motorists with excessive charges. If there was no enforcement then traffic would grind to halt in congested London boroughs like mine. On the other hand councils seeking to "catch people out" as a money spinner is quite wrong. Councils who spray out Penalty Charge Notices as a covert tax over some technicality where motorists are doing no harm shuld certainly be held to account.
My council of Hammersmith and Fulham copes with a huge volume of traffic. Panorama tonight suggests we get the balance wrong. That we issue too many PCNs in general. That in particular we issue too many PCNs for motorists blocking the box junction at Bagley's Lane and the New Kings Road when there is a red light.
Given the BBC's impeccable credentials for impartiality as a public service broadcaster they may include the following points in this evening's broadcast:
- At Bagley’s Lane box junction 25% fewer people are now receiving tickets compared to the year before because people know that they will be caught if they block the junction. In 2011-12 there were 40,634 PCNs issued of which 36,810 raising £2,76 million. Last year 2012-12 2012-13 there were 30,164 issued, 26,974 were paid raising £1,964,207. This year we anticipate a further fall of half a million pounds in the revenue as the numbers blocking the junction continues to fall.
- Bagleys Lane box junction is one of the busiest junctions in London. Of the 30,000 vehicles a day using the junction, only 1 in 500 now receives a ticket. This shows that it is perfectly easy to get through the junction in a way that does not break the rules and cause delays to fellow motorists.
- In 2006 Hammersmith and Fulham was the most congested place in the country. Since then rush hour congestion has fallen by 13.5% in H&F. Before we started enforcing, some drivers knew they could get away with blocking junctions.
- If our road signs were misleading or unclear would be losing a large proportion of appeals, which we are not. In fact, we have one of the highest appeal success rates in London. 75% are unsuccessful.
- If my council was seeking to punish motorists we would not have frozen parking charges. We would provided an extra 200 parking spaces. We would not have provided a new slip road on Fulham Palace Road. We would not have have scaled back on towing – making it a last resort (we now have two tow away trucks we used to have three.) We would not have brought in a permit scheme to charge utility companies for taking too long digging up the roads. We would not have fought successfully against the Congestion Charge Extension. We would not have produced a Drivers Charter.
On the other hand you might find that Panorama don't include the above points. They have only got 30 minutes, I suppose.
Time constraints. Then there is another relevant aspect – they are
determined to do a complete hatchet job.
This is not to say that councils including mine couldn't be doing better. Parking charges should be lower where possible. We should get rid of humps – which cause pollution as well as delay and don't save lives. There should be less clutter with a purge of all confusing and unnecessary street signs. There should be fewer traffic lights and fewer bus lanes.
Despite whatever selective quotes from staff emails Panorama have dug up my council's policy is to treat motorists fairly. We may not always get it right. I am the first to challenge my colleagues when I think we haven't. But that is the direction of travel – despite the impression you might get from turning on the TV this evening..