Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Just the Ticket?

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Just the Ticket?

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID WILLIAMS

A London investigation into the parking fees and fines industry is asking some awkward questions

EVER had an unfair parking ticket? Then you'd have loved to be in my seat as I watched the movers and shakers of the enforcement industry get a light grilling.

The whole controversial business - which last year raked in around [pounds sterling]300 million in fees and fines - is being probed by London Assembly's transport committee. About time, too, and not just from the driver's perspective - councils welcome the review in the hope that it will give them a clean bill of health.

The committee wants to find what makes the system tick. Is it fair on the motorist? Are restrictions properly signed? What instructions are given to attendants?

But the biggest issue is whether parking attendants are " incentivised". Put bluntly, are they bribed to issue more tickets? And we've had a confusingly wide range of answers.

Some councils insist they no longer pay their contractors on the basis of ticket numbers issued - while others admit they still do.

Those that don't, say they judge attendants and contractors only on the "quality" of their work. It's not good enough.

Ticket quotas have been largely responsible for the wave of resentment against parking attendants in London, not least since it emerged that Westminster was offering wardens who issued the most tickets a free car, TV or holiday vouchers.

The scheme was scrapped when it hit the headlines and was described by one parking boss as a "howler".

Unfortunately, it gave more violent drivers an "excuse" to hit back at attendants who, generally, do an excellent job.

The committee heard that more than three attendants are attacked each day, simply for doing a tough job, which, despite being vitally important, is often badly paid and keeps them out in all weathers.

We can't prejudge what the committee - adroitly chaired by Lynne Featherstone - will say when it reports back. But one thing is clear: until councils transform the way they pay their contractors they will have to contend with a hostile public. …

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