Parking made Pleasant? Councils make Plans for 2014…

Monday, 10 February 2014

Last year saw councils across the UK mired in controversy over parking costs, shrinking parking spaces and over zealous attendants. However, a couple of items in the news last week indicate that 2014 could be the year that UK motorists start getting their way.

The first issue under the microscope is cost. According to the BBC, it was recently revealed that parking tickets and fines netted UK councils profits of more than £400 million in 2011/12, with some sources putting the figure closer to £560 million. This seems to have shocked Whitehall into action, with the Department for Transport (DfT) now developing a number of plans to keep fees down.

The DfT has already made its first move, announcing a December prize freeze on parking penalties. Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin says this will keep fees at their existing levels for the remainder of the current parliament at least. Officials are also reportedly seeking to abolish minimum rates for penalty charges, which would allow councils to lower fines for ‘minor violations’. Of course, this would be at their discretion.

Westminster City Council is taking it one step further, after running trials on a cashless smart parking system that would give drivers an ‘Oyster Card for cars’. Getting rid of error prone telephone payment systems would certainly be a welcome development, as long as the system doesn't come at an extra cost to hard-up drivers. Kieran Fitsall, Westminster’s parking services development manager, told The Guardian, "We think it would be easier if you could drive up, park in a space, and the sensor (fitted into a parking bay) notes that you are a registered user."

Finally, motorists can rejoice in the fact that MPs are also considering scrapping the use of CCTV cameras to enforce on-street parking laws, in the hope of encouraging more "common sense" decision making from parking attendants. This would potentially see the end of automatic fining, giving more power to officials to make exceptions.


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