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Parking penalties and other traffic rip-offs

[10 July 2013] And so the robbery of motorists by local authorities and private parking companies, often acting in cahoots, continues. The Panorama programme on 12 June showed how councils use parking fines and other traffic penalties to generate income. The London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, for example, raked in £2million last year from the 30,000 penalties it imposed at the notorious Bagley’s Lane box junction using surveillance cameras. Had someone designed this marvellous piece of traffic control to be a penalty-producing trap, they could hardly have done any better. Council employees are gleeful about it, with one CCTV supervisor sending his staff congratulatory messages like this in 2011: ‘Another record month, guys, well done.’

When Panorama researchers put up clearer warning signs at the junction, penalties dropped by 25%. Naturally, they were ordered to take them down.

London’s local councils seem to be using traffic management and parking controls as revenue-raising tools, which is illegal. Councils outside London want the same powers as their metropolitan counterparts. Several London councils which farm out their parking control to private firms are thought to be incentivizing them to issue more tickets by writing penalty-notice targets into the contracts. The Government seems to turn a blind eye as more and more motorists are penalized.

If wrongdoing is indeed occurring among London councils, the culprits need to be tracked down, prosecuted and sacked. There are clear paper trails leading to heads of department so these should not be difficult cases for the police to crack. Unfortunately, it is hard to see who will lean on the police sufficiently to make it happen. Councils, so quick to prosecute others, can’t be expected to incriminate themselves. When big money’s at stake, councils decide for themselves which laws they observe and which they break, and they generally get away with it. [cont]

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