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BPA: ‘We don't talk to consumers who think’

[10 Feb 2013] The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency’s new Consumer Forum, intended to feed motorists’ concerns into DVLA decision making and give advice to the parking sector, held its first meeting recently. The minutes are on the DVLA website at http://www.dft.gov.uk/dvla/publications.aspx.

Yet the seat reserved for the British Parking Association, the members’ club to which many car-park operators belong, remained unsatupon. Invited by its business partner the DVLA to attend, the BPA took fright on realizing two of its critics would be present: Martin Cutts of Plain Language Commission and Nev Metson, ex-Fraud Squad gumshoe. As the minutes delicately put it: ‘The BPA had decided not to attend because of concerns about the involvement of some independent consumers.’

No surprise there: the BPA prefers to debate only with people who agree with it.

There remains a foul stench about the BPA. It claims to be ‘raising standards’ and ‘putting consumers at the heart of its decision-making’, while presiding over an exponential rise in the penalty income its private-parking members take for the often trivial ‘offences’ they love to penalize. Local authorities, with almost half the votes on the BPA’s ruling council, collude in everything it does. As they would, because local authorities now enrich themselves from parking fines to the tune of about £350million a year. Revenue raising, not parking or traffic control, has become the real goal of this growing ‘industry’, which specializes in producing nothing except misery for motorists and cushy jobs for amateur spies.

Westminster Council recently spent £825,000 upgrading its CCTV cameras in the hope of squeezing motorists for £40million a year in fines. Though the money councils raise from fines and charges is supposed to go towards improving the transport system, David Sparks, chairman of the Local Government Association, recently let the cat out of the bag when he told the Commons Public Accounts Committee: ‘Car parking charges are going up to keep council tax down.’ (Daily Mail, 9 Feb 2013.)

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