Give drivers five minutes grace on parking tickets, MPs say

car parked on double yellow lines Councils receive hundreds of millions of pounds in parking fines

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Drivers should be given "five minutes grace" after their parking tickets expire before facing fines, MPs on the Commons transport committee say.

It also said councils in England should publish annual parking-charge accounts if they want to prove they are not being used as a "cash cow"

The Transport Committee warned it was "neither acceptable nor legal" to use fines to increase revenue.

Councils made a surplus of hundreds of millions of pounds each year, it added.

The MPs urged ministers to freeze charges, currently capped at £130 in London and £70 outside. Councils said money raised went back into services.

Committee chairman, Labour MP Louise Ellman, said: "There is a deep-rooted public perception that parking enforcement is used as a cash cow, so it's essential that local authorities apply stringent transparency."

'Hard to justify'

The report said the Local Government Association had calculated a surplus from on- and off-street parking of £411m in 2011/12, while the RAC Foundation put the figure at £565m.

The maximum fixed penalty for speeding is £60, unless the case is referred to court.

Mrs Ellman argued the charging system was perverse, saying: "Annual parking accounts would allow the public to see how much local revenue is derived from the enforcement of fines, and what proportion of this come from on- or off-street parking charges.

"It's right that parking charges be determined locally, but hard to justify fines that substantially exceed penalties for more serious offences like speeding.

Start Quote

Parking charges are not inherently wrong but they need to be fair, and where penalties are levied they should be proportionate to the 'crime' committed”

End Quote Stephen Glaister Director RAC Foundation

"Central government should freeze the maximum penalty charge and develop differential fines for less serious parking violations. "

Mrs Ellman also said the Department for Transport's rules for councils should include a five-minute "grace-and-favour" period after tickets expire before imposing a fine.

A government spokesman said: "We welcome this report, which strengthens the case for changes to be made to parking rules.

"The law is clear. Parking is not a tax or cash cow for local councils. This government is reining in over-zealous parking enforcement and unfair parking practices, with the levels of parking penalty charges being kept under review."

But Peter Box, chairman of the Local Government Association's economy and transport board, said: "As this report recognises, parking controls are not being used by councils to raise revenue. They are essential for keeping motorists and pedestrians safe, traffic flowing and ensure people can park near their homes and local shops."

He added: "Councils always look to be open and transparent with residents on their parking policies.

"Any income they make from charges and fines is spent on running parking services, fixing potholes and providing subsidised travel to children and the elderly."

Last month, the government said it was considering banning fixed cameras and so-called "spy cars" used by councils to catch people parking illegally.

Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, welcomed the idea of getting councils to publish figures, saying it would "illuminate what many drivers regard as the murky world of parking policy".

"Parking charges are not inherently wrong but they need to be fair, and where penalties are levied they should be proportionate to the 'crime' committed.

"Local authorities are struggling with huge financial pressures but so are drivers. It is unacceptable that car users should be singled out as an easy way of shoring up shrinking budgets."


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  • Comment number 471.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 470.

    @448 What? You mean people who don't believe that the placing of double yellow lines in places where there has been parking for years with no ill effects and the reduction of speed from 60 to 30 on what is, effectively, a six-lane dual carriageway are a danger to other road users? I want these restrictions to be used for their original purpose i.e. safety not revenue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 469.

    Not to defend these tactics used by local councils but I seriously dislike how the government are trying to take the moral ground when they were the ones who slashed local government budgets to the point where they are barely able to function. This wouldn't have happened if the government weren't so focused on cutting spending without thinking of the consequences (just like with Royal Mail sale).

  • rate this

    Comment number 468.

    "Any income they(councils) make from charges and fines is spent on running parking services, fixing potholes and providing subsidised travel to children and the elderly."- Peter Box, Local Government Association.

    Lets see audited accounts then, including "admin charges". It would be good to see a similar audit of where the "green" taxes we pay on energy go as well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 467.

    What the HELL is common sense?

    Everyone has a different view at different times.

    That's why we have laws and rules- everyone knows where they stand.

    If someone is too arrogant to think that those laws apply to them, I am very very pleased for them to pay the moron tax.

    It might seem unfair to be cruel to those who nature has already punished, but I disagree.

  • rate this

    Comment number 466.

    “”One thing I would LOVE changed is parking wardens attitudes…
    ...engine died... phoned the AA. ...sitting in the car ... parking warden slaps fine on window. I tried to explain the situation but he told me "take it to court" and walked off””

    I hope you DID take it to court!! For a start they cant fine you if you haven't left the vehicle - that is stationary NOT parked

  • rate this

    Comment number 465.

    Surely there is a difference between overstaying when you are legally parked, and parking illegally. Often it is possible to get away with the former for a few minutes. The latter is illegal parking. End of.

  • rate this

    Comment number 464.

    Maybe levy penaltys according to an average book value of car
    4 bands
    A £130 penalty for a UK or middle east/Russian millionaire is just an affordable parking charge.

    Band A car book value upto £19,999 = £60 penalty
    Band B car book value £20,000 to £39,999 = £120 penalty
    Band C car book value £40,000 to £74,999 = £240 penalty
    Band D car book value £75,000 & above = £480 penalty

  • rate this

    Comment number 463.

    What a stupid idea. If 5 minutes why not 10 or 15 ? Decide how long you need and get back within the time. I do my best to avoid parking where I have to pay preferring to walk a bit if necessary or go to an out of town centre (which are also big issue free zones).

  • rate this

    Comment number 462.

    "Any income they make from charges and fines is spent on running fixing potholes and providing subsidised travel to children and the elderly."
    Which is raising revenue for other services. Does your foot ache now that you have just shot a hole in it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 461.

    In theory grace periods should allow a bit of flexibility for the short stops we all have to do. In practice, like any honour system, you can guarantee there are imbeciles with inflated sense of entitlement who will take advantage, and the whole scheme will become unmanageable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 460.

    Council should publish parking fine income. What is sad is the bashing of local councils. The public pays for public services as tax payers and for private goods/services as customers. They will go into a supermarket and pay for an item without the need to know the profit margin. They seldom know whether they are being ripped off. Is that clear?

  • rate this

    Comment number 459.

    Is it just human nature that as soon as any rule or law prevents us from doing what what we every once in a while might be tempted to do then that law becomes an excuse for making money or unnecessary? This seems to apply a great deal to rules around motoring. People who would not dream of tax evasion or shoplifting think its understandable or even OK to break traffic laws.

  • rate this

    Comment number 458.

    Surely, our politicians have better things to do with their time. If people are given 5 minutes grace it will not be long before they want a grace period on the grace period. If you flout the rules you are liable to pay the penalty.

    Unreasonable parking restrictions are another matter, particularly for residents parking which seems to be a money-making venture. That may be worth investigating.

  • rate this

    Comment number 457.

    Since I heard their pay is based in part on number of tickets issued, why would a parking warden use common sense when it is not in their interest to do so?

    At least when we don't expect a grace period from them we know where we stand.

    This will lead to fighting on the streets!

  • rate this

    Comment number 456.

    Judging by the highest rated comments, it appears that many people thinks councils are unaccountable. I wonder if it is to do with the poor quality of councillors and their weak authority over council employees or they don't care about their constituents.

    Where I live, a parish council was introduced nearly 10 years ago. There has never been a ballot to elect the parish councillors.

  • rate this

    Comment number 455.

    Heres a radical idea - why don't we pay for the time we actually use rather than making us guess how long we are going to be and charging us for "overstaying".
    The first 15 minutes should be free to allow us to "nip" to a shop.
    Ban the 50p admin and 50p/min hotlines which "allow" us to pay by card. That trebbles the price of a 50p ticket!

  • rate this

    Comment number 454.

    As a ratepayer I am only too happy for my council to augment its income from arrogant people who feel the laws are for other people, not them. I would have a warden outside all schools at going in and coming out time. The parking at these locations is chaotic and dangerous. If you want to break the rules, be my guest, but be prepared to pay for your stupidity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 453.

    The report said the Local Government Association had calculated a surplus from on- and off-street parking of £411m in 2011/12, while the RAC Foundation put the figure at £565m.

    Well, there's a difference of £154m unaccounted for?

  • rate this

    Comment number 452.

    hey guys do want a car? here you go you have bought a car, now buy fuel, now get insurance, oh also pay road tax so you can use our roads and also parking. did i mention all of these prices going up?

    cause getting your first car is an exciting time in your life and part of your independance, well now its just a hole in your wallet.


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