The following is the response of the Association of British Drivers to an independent review of Decriminalised Parking Enforcement being carried out by Richard Childs, former Chief Constable of Lincolnshire Police, at the request of the British Parking Association.
Decriminalised Parking Enforcement Review
DECRIMINALISED PARKING REPORT — A SUBMISSION BY THE ASSOCIATION OF BRITISH DRIVERS
The ABD was set up in 1992 to campaign for a better deal for drivers.
It was established because of the failure of existing motoring organisations to speak out in the face of a growing political climate supporting unreasonable restrictions on car use.
It is independently run by volunteers, and has no financial backers or political affiliations.
Further information on parking can be found on our website www.abd.org.uk
ABD View on Parking
The ABD accepts that there are many places where demand for parking exceeds supply, and so it follows that:
However, we are rigorously opposed to:
- Some restrictions are necessary to equitably share available space amongst competing interests.
- These restrictions need to be enforced.
- Charging for parking (even on street) for extra convenience or security is acceptable, so long as people have a reasonable choice.
- Residents without off road spaces are entitled to reserve some street space near their home, and it is reasonable in principle that they should pay for this, but only if they have a choice.
- Parking spaces being deliberately reduced in order to restrict car use.
- Parking being used to generate revenue over and above reasonable costs incurred in providing and maintaining car parks.
- Restrictions, especially those that are supposed to be safety related, being used to force people to pay for off road parking.
Political Context of Decriminalised Parking
Decriminalised parking regimes have been introduced in a political environment where the government is being lobbied to reduce parking spaces by many influential pressure groups.
"The best way to stop people using their cars is to take away the parking space at the end of the journey"
Lynn Sloman, Transport 2000, 1998
The Government have already acted to reduce the number of parking spaces provided in residential developments (0.5 spaces per dwelling in Central London) and business premises (PPG13), which is forcing more people onto the streets for parking.
What we think of these policies is beyond the scope of this submission, but their existence is a fact and exposes the climate in which decriminalised parking was scoped and implemented.
Fundamental Issues with Decriminalised Parking
1 Violation of Constitutional Checks and Balances
Any civilised democracy has checks and balances to ensure that power is not abused. In the justice system, there should be clear separation of roles:
Decriminalised parking sidesteps all of these fundamental democratic principles by making parking a "civil" matter. This is wrong. It means that local councils make the law, enforce it themselves and retain internally the financial rewards from both charges and fines.
- Laws are made by elected representatives after proper consultation and debate
- Laws are enforced by the police who are independent of the judiciary and the government
- Those who create and enforce laws do not directly benefit financially from so doing
It is inevitable that such a set up will result in a systematic and flagrant abuse of power on the part of local councils that is built into the system, and is actually the intention of decriminalised parking in the view of the ABD.
2 Violation of Democratic Process
Decriminalised parking is a good example of how the government are able to implement unpopular policies without any debate or media attention. It's a simple, three stage process.
1. Delegate authority for a certain matter to the local authorities.
2. Make it financially difficult for the council to do anything other than what central government wants.
3. Allow the matter to be debated "in cabinet" rather than publicly by elected councillors.
This makes it very difficult for any member of the public to even understand the issues, and it builds huge resistance to any attempt by individuals to influence the actions of the Council.
What Does Decriminalised Parking Mean?
The ABD attended a presentation to a City Council on the subject of decriminalised parking as part of a Transport Working Group.
A "Consultant" employed by central government told the assembled Councillors how decriminalised parking worked, then made the following astounding admission:
"You sell the scheme to the public as a way of clamping down on dangerous and obstructive parking, but you will never make it pay like that. Its all about bringing in new yellow lines to force people to use the car parks, new on street parking charges and new residents zones."
This confirms that decriminalised parking is nothing more than a mechanism to force through additional parking restrictions and charges against the wishes of the majority of the population and without proper debate or publicity.
What do the ABD want done?
Decriminalised parking in its current form is clearly unacceptable and damaging to the welfare and quality of life of the British people.
If it is to continue as the preferred route of managing parking in local authorities, there must be radical change in the way it is managed.
Many submissions to this consultation will focus on the enforcement angle, and the ABD probably has little to add to the debate. Of course wardens should not be incentivised to write huge quantities of tickets, and must be discouraged from some of the excesses reported in the news.
However, the real issue is the way the councils are incentivised to bring in new regulations in order to make the scheme pay.
At least one aspect of the lawmaking/enforcement/revenue equation must be taken out of the hands of local authorities. If decriminalised parking is to remain in its current form, then it is the lawmaking issue which must be addresses.
The ABD would like to see national guidelines consulted upon, debated and issued in the following areas:
- Use of yellow lines — defining the roads that they can be used on
- Provision of residents parking — proportion of street allocated to residents:
- Minimum utilisation of spaces by residents
- Maximum proportion of spaces on street
- Maximum charge to residents
- Use of road furniture and barriers to prevent parking
- On street parking charges
- Walking time to unrestricted streets
- Time restrictions — duration according to utilisation
The nation has a right to decide as a whole what rules apply to parking on our streets, and to ensure that these are decided fairly and equitably according to the conflicting needs of different people rather than being manipulated to maximise council revenue or to pursue by stealth the political objective of removing parking spaces from public use.