Ban on car parking cameras and 'spy cars' considered in England


Roy Tunstall, from Liverpool City Council, says CCTV vans act as a "high-visibility deterrent"

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Fixed cameras and what critics call spy cars used to catch people parking illegally could be banned in England.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said he wanted to "rein in over-zealous and unfair rules", and that traffic wardens with cameras could do the job instead.

Static and car mounted cameras have been used to issue more than 10 million fines, totalling £301m, in the past five years, the Conservatives say.

Councils say the cameras help to keep roads safe, especially near schools.

The law could be changed "well before Easter", Mr Pickles told the BBC.

Start Quote

Camera cars have been instrumental in keeping children from being hurt or killed on the way to school”

End Quote Tony Ball Local Government Association

Some 75 councils currently have permission to use CCTV cameras or "approved devices" to enforce parking restrictions, under Labour's 2004 Traffic Management Act.

In these areas, a third of all parking fines are now issued via CCTV rather than by parking wardens, case studies suggest.

Meanwhile, a study by the Audit Commission found one in three councils was earning more money through parking charges and school meals than council tax.

Ahead of the Tories' annual conference, which starts on Sunday, Mr Pickles said restrictions were damaging town centres and being enforced unfairly.

The party has announced a series of proposals including:

  • Banning static CCTV parking cameras and car mounted cameras, instead allowing only visible traffic wardens to film vehicles
  • Publishing "open data" on parking
  • Updating guidelines to help people use local shops more easily
  • Improving people's "rights of redress" when fined inappropriately
  • Stopping "unacceptable and aggressive parking fine collection practices"
  • Reviewing "unnecessary" yellow lines

A Conservative Party briefing says using CCTV for parking enforcement "is detrimental to natural justice", as penalty notices are received in the post "with no opportunity for the driver to examine the parking location as it was at the time of the alleged contravention".

Mr Pickles added: "We want to rein in these over-zealous and unfair rules on parking enforcement, so it focuses on supporting high streets and motorists, not raising money.

"Parking spy cars are just one example of this and a step too far. Public confidence is strengthened in CCTV if it is used to tackle crime, not to raise money for council coffers."

Civil liberties campaigners called for a "serious debate" about what they said was the UK's "uniquely high level of CCTV surveillance".

"Councils should be transparent with residents about how many tickets are being issued with CCTV and how many criminals are being convicted," said Nick Pickles from the Big Brother Watch group.

"That way residents can decide for themselves if they really are better off with the cameras watching them."

'Law is clear'

But Tony Ball, of the Local Government Association, which represents councils, said parking controls were "not about revenue raising" but were "absolutely essential" for allowing people to leave their cars near shops or their homes.

He added: "Camera cars have been instrumental in keeping children from being hurt or killed on the way to school, and CCTV plays an important role elsewhere in monitoring traffic flow and keeping cars moving.

"Nobody likes getting a parking fine but the fact that less than 1% go to adjudication shows that in the vast majority of cases councils get it right.

"Income from on-street parking fines and charges is spent on parking services with any money left over spent on services like fixing potholes and providing subsidised bus travel to children and the elderly."


In response, Mr Pickles told BBC Breakfast: "It's okay for local authorities to say 'oh, it's all to save the children'. No it isn't. What this is about is raking in pretty large sums of money to fill the councils' coffers.

"The law's pretty clear. It says you're not allowed to do that. What we're going to do is enforce the law."

But road safety charity Brake said it made "very little financial or common sense" to remove cameras "which make our roads safer".

"We know that cameras are a very cost-effective way of enforcing traffic laws, while having individual officers trying to cover the same amount of work would cost a bomb," said senior campaigns officer Ellen Booth.

Meanwhile, motoring groups suggested parking policies were designed to make profit rather than improve roads.

"What really irritates drivers is the street-level hostility they feel is being waged against them," said AA president Edmund King.

"Drivers feel that civil enforcement officers are lurking in every street and are not there to deter them but to issue a ticket as soon as the driver's back is turned."

Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation added: "Nobody wants a parking free for all, but they do want reasonable charges and fairness, whatever method is used to achieve it."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    It is of course all about making money.

    Imagine if they introduced free of cheap parking in towns, more people would stop in town centres and shop.
    Imagine in they reduced business rates, businesses would be able to afford to remain open in town centre locations.
    More business means more people wanting to set up more businesses, which can fill up the 60% of empty shops in some town centres!


  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Surely if the parking space has been deemed illegal, then whatever method they use to catch someone is fine.

    If they want to "rein in over-zealous and unfair rules" then they need to re-assess the parking spaces themselves.

    A much better solution could just be to remove the ridiculously high prices for car parks in urban areas.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    If the councils want to keep us safe from dangerous car parking why do they approve building applications based on roads so narrow its impossible to park without causing an obstruction? There is nothing very safe about pedestrians having to walk on the road because of cars parked on pavements.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    If councils improved parking then local shops would improve.
    If councils lowered parking fees then more people would shop locally.
    If councils built sensible multi-storey/underground car parks then this would improve town and city centres. councils are full of individuals who just cannot see past the immediate buck they can earn from hitting motorists.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    As if GCHQ isn't using technology to monitor our emails and calls everyday and passing information to the USA - but what ever we do, don't have a go at the motorist who ignores the rules and puts other people in immediate danger. This is political posturing playing to the lowest common denominator whilst real civil liberties are being eroded.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    That only 1% are contested shows how little faith the public have in the system of review so pay the reduced fee early rather than argue. Parking in town centres & high streets should be free paid for from the exorbitant rents and rates the shops pay. Councils & politicians generally need to understand tax is NOT the answer to our financial problems, in fact the obverse is probably true.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Unfortunately while the prevailing attitude in this country is "what can I get away with" rather than "what is right" then changes like this will achieve nothing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.


    This is a further example of government interfering with proper use of CCTV and camera vans. Why should ignorant, selfish motorists park where they please and cause traffic chaos?"

    That's fair comment and I agree with it, but what about the miles of quite unnecessary double yellows, designed solely to force drivers into over-priced car parks? Not all restrictions are for traffic flow reasons

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    This proposed ban should also apply to parking on private land as well. There are a number of companies, some employed by the large supermarkets, who have switched from extorting money by wheel clamping to collecting it through fixed CCTV cameras.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    If this was about saving the lives of children, there would be a camera outside every school. There isn't. They are positioned where they will make the most money.

    50% of double yellow lines are unnecessary. They exist only to force drivers to use council run car parks.

    In Wealden district there are no parking charges, relatively few yellow lines, no traffic wardens and little congestion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    My local council have just made the entire area where I work residents permit only and there is not even any pay parking for half a mile! I do wonder sometimes what planet they are on when they question why town centres are dead.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    I pulled over in a quiet street in London to reset my satnav. I did not get out of the car or switch my engine off. I was in no-one's way and no car passed me. I got a £60 fine for those few minutes of safe operation of my technology. When I objected I was told that as I was in a hire car the rental company had to file the complaint. That would have cost me even more.

    It's a scam.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    drivers are the worst kind of criminals, they are the only ones who seem to get angry that breaking the law can lead to prosecution and seem find the enforcement of the law the worst thing in the world

    suck it up, drive right or get off the roads.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    At last some respite for the motorist. Instead of looking at every possible scheme to raise money off the tax payers to pay for the gross salaries and pensions the bosses pay themselves; they should be looking at ways and means to save money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    "Councils say the cameras help to keep roads safe, especially near schools."

    Really? It just causes cars to suddenly break from the "speed limit" to "10mph below speed limit"....

    Thus :

    * slowing down traffic
    * causing extra carbon to be released into the atmosphere
    * generating additional petrol sales (ie. extra tax revenue)

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    This is a further example of government interfering with proper use of CCTV and camera vans. Why should ignorant, selfish motorists park where they please and cause traffic chaos?

    I've no doubt that Pickles' next hare-brained idea will be to get rid of what few speed cameras remain, and tell the police to cease harrassing motorists with speed checks. He should get out and do a bit more walking.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    If we didn't park where we shouldn't then we won't get fined

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Whilst I loathe the overzealous persecution of motorists, I cannot but think that people who park in bus stops or on the keep clear lines outside of schools deserve every parking ticket they get. Having said that, I'd sooner that they were confronted by a real traffic warden who as well as dishing out fines to the deserving can also advise why parking in such places is both selfish and dangerous

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Illegal parking is a scourge - there are frequently half mile tailbacks through my town because some selfish drivers decide that everyone will have to wait while they block the road to use an ATM or buy a butty, even though there's load of free parking nearby.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Stuff that, the last time I got caught I stopped driving out of spite and now save a fortune. If the council lose that revenue they'll just slap a tax on something else that I might end up having to pay.


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