Follow the money

10 Dec

During the initial investigation of the Watergate scandal the ‘deep throat’ told reporters at the Washington Post to ‘follow the money’. It is certainly interesting to follow the money from parking fines.

Fines given out by the police appear to go into general Treasury funds, ie the money is treated just like most other taxation. Given that police funding is being cut and that for every police officer dealing with parking offenses there is one less police officer dealing with other crimes I suggest that the level of enforcement we will see will decrease over time as they concentrate on more urgent issues.

Fines handed out by the councils using civil enforcement powers on the other hand are retained by the council. In most councils this is ring-fenced and can only be used for enforcement purposes with any surplus available for highway or environmental schemes. Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 (Section 55) The AA do say that it would be a breech of the Secretary of State’s guidelines if a council viewed civil parking enforcement as a way of raising revenue, however others have argued that the level of fines should be raised to ensure that fines need to be higher to act as a sufficient deterrent in areas where official parking charges are high.

A total of 328m was paid out by motorists in parking fines in 2008-2009 which works out at £6.14 per head. Westminster Council raised a whopping £42m. If the number of registered vehicles in the UK continues its relentless climb the temptation to park illegally will only increase and fine incomes will probably also climb.

What this means is that as long as the cost of collection is lower than the amount of income raise then there should be no risk of parking enforcement for civil offenses (such as yellow lines) falling due to reduced council revenue. As such I suggest that we press councils on enforcement for which they are responsible, for example in Arras Square that I reported on a few days ago. Check the map in The Law section to see if your areas has opted for civil enforcement.

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