Foreign car parking fines cost councils more than £500,000

By Emma Vardy
BBC South Today

media captionCouncils are trying to recover £500,000 in parking fines owed by overseas drivers

More than £500,000 is owed to councils in the south in unpaid parking fines issued to foreign-registered vehicles since 2009.

Portsmouth City Council has brought in external contractors in a bid to reclaim fines totalling £143,666.

Oxfordshire County Council and Southampton City Council are now looking to do the same.

Fines have previously been written off by some councils because of difficulties tracing overseas drivers.

A Freedom of Information (FoI) request by BBC South Today shows £521,026 is owed in 10,423 unpaid fines by foreign vehicle owners in Oxfordshire, Southampton and Portsmouth since 2009.

46 unpaid tickets

Michael Robinson, parking operations manager at Portsmouth City Council, said: "We felt it was unfair British people were having to pay and foreign-registered vehicles were getting away with it.

"It's frustrating for parking wardens when they see the same vehicle over and over again, parked in the same place."

Euro Parking Collection (EPC), which collect fines on behalf of Portsmouth City Council, said local authorities had seen an opportunity for extra revenue.

EPC obtains keeper details from the country's Vehicle Licensing Authority (VLA) and sends letters to owners in their native language asking for the money.

Stuart Hendry, from EPC, said: "Not all VLAs in each country will give out keeper details. France for example don't, but the majority will."

The company operates on a "no win, no fee" basis, taking a percentage commission on the amount of fines reclaimed.

Mr Hendry said it was common to see "persistent evaders".

image captionOxfordshire County Council is owed £358,290 in unpaid fines to foreign vehicles

He added: "One of every three foreign vehicles we deal with has ten or more Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs)."

Figures obtained by the BBC showed one foreign vehicle in Southampton had 46 unpaid parking tickets in the past year alone.

Oxfordshire County Council is looking at how to reclaim £358,290 in unpaid fines from the last four years.

Deputy leader Rodney Rose said BBC South Today's investigation had alerted him to the problem.

He said: "I hadn't realised the scale it is on. My reaction is what am I going to do about it?"

The BBC also learned foreign vehicles have been caught speeding 10,725 times by Thames Valley Police cameras over the past four years, but none have been given penalties.

EPC is currently working on pilot schemes in London to help police forces reclaim these fines in the same way.

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