Parking enforcement ban – weak argument?

26 Jun

When the proposed ban on use of CCTV enforcement cameras was debated in parliament on 23 June 2014 Gordon Marsden MP quoted an earlier speaker who suggested that those with the weakest argument shout loudest ‘Argument weak here, shout like mad’. He  then noted that little time had been allowed for consultation or discussion and that the proposed changes had unusually been sqeeezed into  the Deregulation Bill at the third reading stage. He possibly also objected to the fact that three totally separate new clauses (marine accident investigation, private hire vehicle licensing and vehicle parking enforcement) were to be discussed at the same time making it hard to discuss any in a coherent way.

As I mentioned a few days ago the emotive language used by the Communities Secretary when announcing the changes bothered me. To quote: ‘CCTV spy cars can be seen lurking on every street raking in cash for greedy councils and breaking the rules that clearly state that fines should not be used to generate profit for town halls‘.

It also concerns me that the official press release that was released on Saturday 21 June, and which was widely reported in the papers pretty much verbatim, was not only riddled with emotive language, but also read as if the ban was already a done deal, with no question that it would not get through parliament without challenge. To quote: “In a victory for drivers and shoppers, the government will make it illegal to use closed circuit television (CCTV) ‘spy cars’ alone to enforce on-street parking ending the plague of parking tickets by post“. Why did they not say that ‘parliament will debate the issue on Monday and if they agree then it will be made illegal’.

And then there is the issue that the government’s response to the consultation was not make available at the time of the press release on the 21st and was indeed not published until the day of parliamentary debate itself. Don’t be confused that the document itself, ‘Response to consultation on local authority parking‘ claims on the website to have been published on the 21 June – the page history  at the bottom of the page clearly shows that it was only update on the 23rd, the day of the debate. It was certainly not there on the afternoon of the 21st because I looked and it said it was not yet available. Were people really working over the weekend to finish it, or was publication delayed tactically because the contents were not considered to be helpful? I hope not.

Regrettably then, journalists, MPs and the public were not able to refer to this fascinating document, which shows the devastating weakness of the government’s position, when reporting on the issue on Saturday or when debating it in parliament on Monday. By way of example it states that:

In response to the question “Do you consider local authority parking enforcement is being applied fairly and reasonably in your area?“:

  • 81% of the 324 organisations that responded said that enforcement was currently applied fairly
  • Just over half of the 421 individuals who responded through that enforcement was currently applied fairly and reasonably (211 thought it was, 210 thought it was unfair).

Hardly supportive of the government’s stance.

And then in response to the question “The Government intends to abolish the use of CCTV cameras for parking enforcement. Do you have any views or comments on this proposal?” They reported that;

  • bus operators opposed the proposed ban on the grounds that authorities should be able to enforce bus lane contraventions in the most efficient and cost effective way,
  • disabled groups opposed the ban and saw CCTV as a vital tool to help improve road safety, especially outside schools and at bus stops,
  • local authorities indicated that they opposed the ban and many considered that it was a necessary and efficient means of ensuring that road safety issues (e.g. around schools) and traffic congestion (e.g. bus lanes, access to hospitals) were adequately managed as part of the statutory network management duty,
  • schools opposed the ban, and some suggested it would leave schools powerless to rein in reckless parents. Head teachers warned of more disputes and greater safety hazards,
  • transport groups opposed the ban, noting that without which school ziz-zag markings would be difficult to enforce and that some areas can become “no go” areas for Civil Enforcement Officers because of the risk of verbal or physical abuse,
  • cycling organisations opposed the ban saying that was an important tool to reduce rogue parking,
  • businesses had mixed views, some wanting the ban, others feeling that it should be used as an effective and efficient tool in appropriate locations and time,
  • motoring organisations had ‘mixed views’. Some thought a blanket abolition would be a retrograde step.

I find it remarkably the views pedestrians and of ‘vulverable road users’, including the very young, very old and he infirm were not mentioned at all here.

Did this result in a change of hear by the government? Of course not. The considered government response was that: “The government intends to press on and take action to see a ban on the use of CCTV cameras to enforce parking contraventions in the vast majority of case” only allowing them to be used for vehicles:

  • When stopped in restricted areas outside a school *1
  • When stopped (where prohibited) on a red route;
  • Where parked (where prohibited) in a bus lane;
  • Where stopped on a restricted bus stop or stand; *2

*1 Do be aware that many zig-zags outside schools are not actually ‘restricted areas’. Paint on the road is not actually enough, as there also needs to be a pole and sign and also an expensive legal process to create what I believe they mean by a ‘restricted area’. This legal stage is often skipped because of the cost, and as such I don’t believe that it will be possible to use CCTV to enforce parking outside most of the schools in Ipswich where I live, and probably in many other places. I will do a post shortly on this subject.

*2 Do also notice the use of the word ‘restricted’ and ‘stopped’ in relation to bus stops. I believe that bus stops are only ‘restricted’ if they have a yellow box painted on the road and a pole and sign with details. Most bus are not restricted like this because of the cost of introducing it.

Places where CCTV can not be used would therefore include:

  • yellow lines, including those protecting bus routes (as distinct from bus lanes where they can be used)
  • dropped kerbs (where provided for pedestrians to cross the road)no loading areas
  • zig-zags outside many schools
  • by most bus stops
  • the approaches to signalised pedestrian crossings
  • any more? (do please note these in the comments section below and I will add them). The consultation notes that there were as many as 40 possible offences where CCTV enforcement would be banned.

Personally, I think this is all very encouraging for us campaigners in the longer term because clearly there is considerable support for effective control of rogue parking and the government is in a very weak position.

In the mean time we do of course need to continue to make our case robustly in public and keep up the pressure on MPs, many of whom are already well aware of the strength of opinion but clearly don’t yet have the courage to act on-mass. In the short term these changes will make parking worse, and we need to use this to build further support for change.

I can’t actually believe that the government really going to be foolish enough to go against the advice of so many organisations and individuals who oppose the changes when even the motoring organisations are not convinced of the change. Or will this get quietly ‘parked’ like their earlier proposal to increase the motorway speed limit to 80 mph?




2 Responses to “Parking enforcement ban – weak argument?”

  1. Graham Martin-Royle June 26, 2014 at 3:49 pm #

    I think that this is to do with votes and nothing else. The tories are running scared about next years election and are trying to get whatever votes they can. Even in a case like this where the evidence is against them, they think they can pick up some votes and they’re therefore more than ready to cast the evidence aside.

  2. Bristol Traffic Team June 27, 2014 at 11:08 am #

    Bristol Council went through the effort of making school keep clear zones enforceable by the traffic wardens before they could roll out CCTV for schools -until then, only the police could do it. That may be related to restricted areas, maybe not.

    Those same CCTV cars apparently can’t enforce double yellow parking by schools, not if it is short-stay dropoffs, as that constitutes loading/unloading

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