Foreign drivers owe 'millions' in unpaid fines
Councils are missing out on millions of pounds every year because foreign drivers are not paying parking fines, the Local Government Association says.
European vehicles can be driven on UK roads for six months before being registered, with any parking offences committed in this period not recorded.
UK councils say tens of thousands of pounds in unpaid fines are lost each month as car owners cannot be traced.
The Department for Transport said it was trying to tackle the issue.
'Not above the law'
One authority, Brighton & Hove Council, says it was owed more than £750,000.
An estimated three million cars enter the UK each year.
But currently the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) only records information about non-UK registered vehicles when they are notified by offence reports from the police or tip-offs from the public.
Peter Box, chairman of the LGA's economy and transport board, said: "Drivers of foreign-registered vehicles need to realise they are not above the law in this country.
"Reckless and inconsiderate parking by non-UK registered vehicles puts other drivers and pedestrians at risk.
"The millions of pounds worth of fines written off could also be spent filling potholes, providing bus services and tackling the £12bn repair backlog to bring our roads up to scratch."
A central database would allow the government to "get tougher" on those who do not register their vehicle, he added.
According to the LGA:
- Oxfordshire, Southampton and Portsmouth councils have written off more than 10,000 tickets issued to foreign-registered vehicles in the past five years, amounting to more than £500,000 in unpaid fines
- Vehicles registered outside the UK account for 2% of all parking tickets issued in Brighton & Hove, at a cost of about £2,000 a month
- Bournemouth Council has written off £57,000 in parking tickets to overseas-registered vehicles in the past 12 months
- Maidstone Council in Kent has been forced to write off £28,455 in the same period
- Leicester City Council has accumulated unpaid fines worth £20,000 in the past year
'Tip of the iceberg'
A Department for Transport spokesman said: "We are aware of the issue of foreign vehicles failing to register if they have been in the UK for longer than six months.
"Discussions are currently ongoing across government to identify ways of improving the flow of information between agencies in order to tackle this problem and we hope to announce firm plans shortly.
"Drivers from EU member states are allowed to drive here for up to six months in a 12-month period before registering with the DVLA, just as British drivers can abroad."
RAC spokesman Simon Williams said: "This is the latest blow for motorists in the saga of the unknown number of foreign vehicles which enter the country and are then unaccounted for, whether or not they leave or remain in the UK.
"The millions of pounds being lost through unpaid parking fines is unfortunately just the tip of the iceberg when compared to the car tax that should be paid once a vehicle has been in the UK for more than six months."
AA president Edmund King said the problem of unpaid fines was exacerbated by criminals cloning or stealing foreign number plates to stay outside the law.
"Certain UK criminals use foreign plates to avoid paying parking or speeding fines as well as congestion charges," he said.
"It is misleading to suggest that the unpaid fines are purely down to tourists."