As the Conservative Party Conference approaches the first policy announcements arrive. Among them Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles and Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin outline new Government proposals to reform parking rules to help with the cost of living and support local shops.
Under the last Labour Government, revenue from parking soared from £608 million in 1997 to £1.3 billion by 2010. Nine million parking fines are now issued every year by town halls in England. High court rulings have found that councils are raising money illegally from parking, encouraged by budget-setting guidance from the Local Government Association. Independent experts have warned that aggressive parking policies are harming local high streets and local shops.
The Government is announcing plans to:
- Stop CCTV parking cash cameras and spy cars.
- Publish new open data on parking to allow the public to ‘go compare’.
The Government will also be consulting on proposals to:
- Update parking enforcement guidance to support local shops.
- Tackle wrongly-issued fines and improving citizens’ rights of redress.
- Stop unacceptable and aggressive parking fine collection practices.
- Review unnecessary yellow lines and the scope for residents’ reviews.
- Review the scope for extending the grace period for parking offences.
- Clamp down on anti-social driving and encouraging social responsibility.
- Spread best practice on parking and supporting town centres.
Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said:
“The last Labour Government told councils to hammer hard-working people with higher parking charges and unfair parking fines. By doing this Labour pushed up the cost of living, and undermined local high streets and shopping parades. We want to rein in these over-zealous and unfair rules on parking enforcement, so it focuses on supporting high streets and motorists, not raising money. Parking spy cars are just one example of this and a step too far. Public confidence is strengthened in CCTV if it is used to tackle crime, not to raise money for council coffers.”
Patrick McLoughlin, Secretary of State for Transport, said:
“Labour’s ill thought-out policies have led to an increase in congestion and parking problems on our streets. By making sensible changes such as providing more parking spaces for local shoppers we can help ease traffic flow whilst supporting our vibrant high streets. Arbitrary parking rules force shoppers online or to out of town stores, causing lasting damage to local firms and small shops.”
Using fines as a hidden source of taxation is unconstitutional – it goes against the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights. Among the specific details the Government are looking at is an increase in the grace period from parking on a double yellow line to 15 minutes – where it is not dangerous or blocking access. It had seemed that the Lib Dems were trying to block this but that now seems to have been sorted out.
The principles of localism and transparency are being applied with the requirement for councils to publish their data on parking revenue and the number of parking places as well as allowing petitions for removing yellow lines to force a council to carry out a review.