Councils pocket up to £10.6 million in parking fines per year

Councils pocket up to £10.6 million in parking fines per year

It has recently been revealed that local councils up and down the UK are frequently pocketing vast amounts of revenue from parking fines.

 While the average council issued more than £850,000 worth of parking fines in under a year, some busier London boroughs brought in almost ten times that with numbers reaching £10.6 million.

These statistics have been drawn from a study conducted by This is Money, carried out to establish which councils were raking in the most revenue from parking fines during the period from August 2019 to July 2020.

During this period, it was discovered on average that 63 parking fines were being handed out per day by most councils. These drivers were charged with anywhere between £37 and £41.

Add to this the cost of parking charges accumulated during the same period and the total brought in by councils reaches £996 million. That equates to £2.7 million a day, or £32 per second. It was also revealed that some councils struggling for cash had raised parking prices by up to 230 per cent, which has only served to boost the already staggering numbers further.

A separate study, conducted in 2015, reinforces the dramatic increase in parking fine revenue over the last five years. In the same period between 2015 and 2016, numbers only reached £756 million.

At the time, this number was described by Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, to be ‘eye-wateringly large’ but also an inevitable result of growing competition for parking spaces in towns and cities.

He also added in defence of parking fine fees that ‘parking charges are one of the tools councils use to keep traffic moving whilst also allowing people reasonable and affordable access to high street shops and other facilities.’

Despite these worryingly high numbers from five years ago, a representative of the Local Government Association at the time insisted that ‘councils did not make a profit from parking’ but that ‘local authorities must strike a balance when setting charges to ensure there are parking spaces available and traffic is not held up.’

‘We’ve been clear that councils shouldn’t use parking as a cash cow,’ a spokesperson added, but with numbers continuing to rise, drivers have been left questioning the reasoning behind the increase.

In relation to this most recent study, Dan Huston, head of motoring at Compare the Market admitted that, despite previous warnings ‘parking fine revenues are a cash cow for many local authorities’ and that ‘up and down the country drivers are regularly being caught out by tight parking restrictions.’

He finished with a warning to UK drivers to stay vigilant: ‘we would encourage drivers to take extra care and attention when parking up their car to ensure they avoid a parking fine.’

 

Warden gives parking fine to van

[Image Source: Shutterstock, Jan 2021]

Parking fines in your area

 London based local councils brought in by far the most revenue from parking fines, with key locations named as city centres and high streets. These areas also accounted for some of the most elevated parking fine charge fees, with the London Borough of Haringey demanding a colossal £72.04 from caught out drivers.

While the London Borough of Newham topped the charts for the most considerable amount of parking fine revenue with £10.6 million, other local authorities outside of London weren’t far behind.

The City of Glasgow came in at £5.4 million, with over 100,000 fines issued, followed by Birmingham City Council at £3.9 million with a similar number of fines issued but with a slightly lower charge than the City of Glasgow.

Also making the top ten list outside of London were: Brighton and Hove City Council, Liverpool City Council, East Sussex Council, Newcastle upon Tyne City Council, Medway Council, Bournemouth Borough Council, Cardiff Council and Oxfordshire County Council.

Every single local authority on the top 20 list, London boroughs included, brought in at least £1.5 million in parking revenues during the aforementioned time period.

Upon seeing these figures, one motorist commented that local authorities are ‘killing towns and villages’ with ramped up parking fine fees, while another defended councils, reinforcing the idea that ‘the council doesn’t issue fines if there isn’t any rule-breaking – why do motorists think they can park anywhere they want?’

 Did your area make the Top 20 list? Do you think parking fine rules are unfair or justified?

Tell us in the comments.

Councils make switch to plug-in cars difficult with no plans to install on-street chargers

Councils make switch to plug-in cars difficult with no plans to install on-street chargers

Despite record numbers of plug-in cars registered over the last year, research shows that only 9,300 on-street electric car chargers are set to be installed between now and 2025.

The move towards electric vehicles is accelerating as the new petrol and diesel model ban looms closer. Still, research shows that many local councils are failing to put plans in place to accommodate this shift by installing on-street chargers; some areas have no plans whatsoever to install any in the next five years. This is despite the £10 million government funding made available to do so.

In 2020, 175,082 plug-in models were registered in the UK, but current plans for installing on-street chargers would mean that there would be only one new on-street charger installation per 19 electric and hybrid models.

Experts have warned that without action, this lack of intent from local councils could prove to be a ‘huge bottle-neck’ to plug-in vehicles in the coming years.

The switch to electric vehicles by 2030 has already been dubbed as too ambitious, and motorists up and down the country have raised concerns about its practicalities. It seems that this new information has severed to cast further doubt.

A Centrica study which polled 2,000 UK drivers revealed that ‘half of the drivers who are not considering buying an electric vehicle blamed the lack of access to on-street or public charging points in their area.’

While motorists with access to a garage or driveway may not be impacted by lack of on-street chargers, it is motorists who rely on on-street parking who will be disadvantaged.

In fact, more than three-quarters of motorists in the same survey said that ‘the investment into more on-street charging points in urban areas would encourage more drivers without a driveway to go electric’ while a further three-quarters felt that the same could be said for rural areas.

Amanda Stretton, sustainable transport editor at Centrica, shares in the concern of motorists, saying: ‘The latest figures released today demonstrate the need for all UK councils to play their part in helping to achieve the 2030 ban. With over half of drivers attributing lack of charges as the main reason preventing them from purchasing an EV, it’s unfair that those without a driveway risk getting left behind.’

She also admitted that: ‘charging infrastructure and energy systems will need to be upgraded to cope with the demand and support drivers.’ Without these efforts, experts are concerned that this will serve as yet another barrier to the 2030 petrol and diesel ban’s success.

Electric vehicles charging via on-street charging point

[Image Source: Shutterstock, Jan 2021]

Councils not entirely to blame

While councils who are slow to install on-street chargers make up part of the problem, experts also say that they are not entirely to blame: ‘We cannot put the onus on councils alone to create the infrastructure to support electric vehicles, it has to be a team effort’, says managing director of parking provider, RingGo, Peter O’Driscoll.

In another survey carried out by RingGo, Mr O’Driscoll confirmed that they had obtained similar results to Centrica: ‘we found over 30% of those open to switching to an electric car still feel there needs to be greater availability of charging facilities to fully commit.’

He reinforced the need to educate motorists and councils alike on the benefits of electric vehicles in a plight to encourage them to take action: ‘There needs to be an education about not only the capabilities of electric vehicles – the distance they can travel, how often they need to be charged and the cost-saving associated – but also the tools available to find charging points across the country.’

Centrica added that in their endeavour to boost installations, they ‘are working with businesses to install smart charging systems which help automate charging at times which does not put pressure on the grid. This helps regulate demand and ensures customers get the best deal on electric prices.’

With 126 councils across the UK having no plans to install any on-street chargers before 2025, it seems that other organisations like Centrica and RingGo are being left to prepare the country for the big switch by themselves.

Unless something changes, experts warn, the ‘serious lack of investment’ in local infrastructure will ‘ultimately strangle ministers’ efforts to convince drivers to switch to electric cars ahead of the 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel vehicles.

Do you think councils are doing enough to provide on-street chargers? Have you been convinced to make the electric switch? 

Tell us in the comments.

Learner drivers lose £1.1 million in lockdown driving test suspensions

Learner drivers lose £1.1 million in lockdown driving test suspensions

This month, petitions have been launched to call on the government to extend theory test certificates after research revealed almost 50,000 learner drivers were left £1.1 million out-of-pocket last year due to driving test suspensions.

For the majority of 2020, both practical and theory driving tests were suspended to accommodate the new restrictions brought about by pandemic lockdowns. It was found that almost 50,000 theory test certificates expired last year; a theory test costs £23 to sit, meaning that learners have seen £1.1 million worth of passed theory tests go to waste.

As we are now in the midst of another national lockdown, assumed to last throughout February and beyond, it stands that learner drivers could be set to lose another £320,000 due to 13,944 more tests expiring.

Despite pleas from driving instructors, other industry insiders and learners themselves, the government has refused to extend theory test certificates, despite practical tests not being able to go ahead.

While organisations are acknowledging the difficulties and disappointment faced by learner drivers, Marmalade manager, Crispin Moger, said that although he doesn’t ‘doubt that there will have been many learner drivers that would have planned to take their test during the time periods affected by multiple UK lockdowns and will now have lost through no fault of their own,’ unfortunately ‘learners whose certificates have expired will need to take the test and pass it again before the can take their practical driving test adding yet more time to their wait, adding to the backlog we are already expected to see in 2021.’

Concerns have also been raised not just about the cost to learner drivers, but the extent to which the suspension of driving tests is holding back the next generation of drivers. Moger further comments on this, saying ‘for some, this is just another roadblock to gaining freedom and will be a hindrance to many where a driving test pass was at the centre of their plans.’

While the rules may seem set in stone and unlikely to change, the most recent petition has over 30,000 signatures in favour of demanding a 12-month theory certificate extension.

Supporters feel that this extension would prevent additional costs of resitting tests and ease the backlog of learners clamouring to sit their practical assessments at the earliest available date. There are concerns that tests centres will be swamped when they re-open, further delaying tests for so many.

Learner driver sign on top of car

[Image Source: Shutterstock, Jan 21]

Government resists pressure to extend theory certificates

Secretary of the Department for Transport, Rachel Maclean, has responded to test extension petitions by defending the parliamentary decision not to do so: ‘The two-year validity period of the theory test certificate is set in legislation, and the Government has taken the decision not to lay further legislation to extend it.

She went on to explain the reasoning behind the decision, stating: ‘The primary reason is that the two-year validity is in place to ensure that a candidate’s theoretical knowledge and hazard perception skills are up to date the critical point they drive on their own for the first time. Extending the validity would provide less reassurance that this is the case.’

She finished by reassuring those that had the opportunity to re-pass a theory test during brief breaks in national lockdowns by saying: ‘those whose certificate previously expired and have since passed the theory test will now have a further two years in which to pass the practical test.’

With the pandemic and lockdowns alike lasting far longer than expected, time is ticking again for learners in this situation and driving instructors unhappy with the government decision.

Ian McIntosh, chief executive of RED Driving School, said he felt that the decision was a ‘huge injustice to learners’ and noted that ‘the theory test is expensive and difficult to pass, and learners cannot book a practical test without a valid theory test pass certificate, meaning thousands of learners will have to wait even longer to obtain their licences.’

He and others in the profession ‘believe all students who passed their theory tests in April 2018 onwards should be allowed to take a practical test when the test centres re-open, meaning thousands of learners will have to wait even longer to obtain driving licenses.’

McIntosh concludes by saying that ‘the government’s failure to extend the theory test pass certificate is a needless bureaucratic bottleneck that could hinder the nation’s Covid bounce back, particularly if learners cannot obtain licences for work purposes.’

Do you think learners should be afforded an extension? Or is the government decision justifiable?

 Tell us in the comments.

Pothole repair time accelerated by 700% in development of new JCB machine

Pothole repair time accelerated by 700% in development of new JCB machine

Potholes are a long-standing problem on British roads, accounting for countless damages to vehicles and complaints to local authorities. Part of the issue comes from the lack of resources and funding available to quickly and effectively fill potholes.

However, a new machine developed by JCB – dubbed the PotholePro – is set to accelerate repair rates by up to 700% in an effort to restore Britain’s roads.

The PotholePro is able to do the job that usually requires three machines, drastically reducing emissions and cost. With a price tag of £165,000 or £600 per week to rent, it offers a much more affordable option for local authorities and road operators and opens up more repair opportunities.

JCB says that this machine is the most efficient of its type, with development leader and JCB chairman, Lord Bamford, stating that: ‘JCB’s solution is simple and cost-effective and fixes potholes permanently first time. Once the machine has done its job, all the contractor needs to do is just add tar.’

The machine has already been in use in Stoke-on-Trent, and the city council has seen positive results. Initial testing revealed that the machine could complete 51 road repair jobs in just 20 days, a task that would typically have taken up to six operatives 63 days to complete. 

Councillor Daniel Jellyman was pleased with the result, saying: ‘Potholes are a nuisance to motorists up and down the country and we’ve worked closely with JCB to come up with a solution to what is a national problem. In a time when every penny and pound counts for local authorities, we’re delighted to be at the forefront of developing and trialling new technologies and ways of working, especially ones which could save residents money.’

The PotholePro uses cutting edge technology to combine a 600mm-wide planer – designed to create a level cut and ensure long-lasting results – with a sweeper and cropping tool, eliminating the need for additional machinery. Tests have already indicated that the JCB PotholePro is capable of completing a pothole repair in less than eight minutes – the equivalent of fixing 700 potholes a month.

Workmen fixing potholes

[Image Source: Shutterstock , Jan 21]

The problem with potholes

The development of the PotholePro comes off the back of a particularly bad year for pothole complaints, with reports to local authorities topping 210,000 in some areas during 2020, despite a decrease in general traffic due to lockdown.

In a study conducted by RAC and published in December 2020, 52% of surveyed drivers said that road conditions were worse than 12 months ago, while 38% stated that their biggest concern as a driver was the state of council-maintained roads. Between July and September 2020 alone, the RAC saw 1,900 call-outs for damaged shock absorbers, broken suspension springs and distorted wheels, likely to have been caused by potholes.

The issue was recognised in the government Autumn 2020 Spending Review, with Chancellor Rishi Sunak vowing to invest £1.6 billion to fix potholes in Britain in an attempt to ‘level-up’ uneven roads.

However, in response to the Chancellor’s statement, chair of the AIA Rick Green said: ‘While these spending commitments are welcome in these challenging times, we are aware that the sums outlined will not be enough to plug the existing multi-billion-pound backlog in road maintenance funding and so our ageing network will continue to decline.’

He went on to suggest that ‘what’s needed going forward is an additional investment of £1.5 billion a year for 10 years to improve the experience of all road users, support recovery an deliver a much-needed boost to the economy.’

It is hoped that JCB’s PotholePro will relieve some of the issues faced by local councils in their endeavour to fund the upkeep of their roads. AA President Edmund King OBE reinforced the importance of road repairs in saying: ‘The toll of pothole damage on cars is already breath-taking. However, as more people take up cycling due to avoiding public transport in the pandemic and if e-scooters are legalised, then sorting out poor road surfaces is more important than ever.’

He finished by praising JCB and their efforts to overcome the issue with potholes: ‘JCB has taken the initiative to fix these problems, and we’re excited to see its new PotholePro take to the streets.’

Are the roads in your local area littered with potholes? Are councils doing enough to protect our vehicles from pothole damage?

Tell us in the comments.

BMW sparks outrage with new privacy-breaching billboards set to target drivers

BMW sparks outrage with new privacy-breaching billboards set to target drivers

Concerns have been raised over a new BMW marketing initiative that requires ‘Vehicle Detection Technology’ to identify BMW cars on the road for highly-personalised targeted marketing.

The ‘Vehicle Detection Technology’ is said to ‘trigger highly personalised, real-time content when a handpicked vehicle type is directly in the sight of a roadside screen.’ The targeting criteria requires a BMW to be over 35 months old and, once one has been identified, the interactive billboards will ‘leap into action.’ The driver will then be shown targeted adverts for BMW’s extended warranties.

While the scheme seems to be nothing more than a smart marketing move on the surface, experts at Motoring Research are worried that it could be used to ‘name and shame drivers’ while social media users expressed concerns that it may breach privacy laws.

Despite concerns, the interactive billboards are set to go live in London, Birmingham, Newcastle and Manchester. The boards will be installed on major roads at traffic lights, in prime position to identify a relevant car that is stationary at a red light. Targeted marketing will then be displayed to the driver, warning of potentially expensive issues that are no longer covered.

The Daily Mail suggests that the adverts will also be used ‘despite the fact that many owners of older BMWs could already have an approved extended warranty, or similar products available from specialist providers such as MotorEasy or Warrantywise – or have separate savings to cover the cost of cars is required.’ The fact that the advertising relies on assumption seems to be yet another cause for concern.

Some reports suggested that the system may be able to recognise if an older BMW has an approved warranty or not, with Cars UK going as far as to say drivers this may make drivers feel as if they are being ‘stalked’ in their cars.

Motorists are concerned at having their private details flashed up in public places without their consent.

[Image source: Shutterstock, Jan 2021]

Will the scheme win-over concerned motorists?

In aiding understanding of this new scheme, a spokesperson for BMW explained that: ‘Vehicle Detection technology is a proprietary technology of Ocean Outdoor that uses a mixture of anonymised third-party data sources from the automotive industry to trigger content more relevant to the make or model of the vehicle that has stopped at the lights.’

In an attempt to reassure concerned experts and motorist, they said: ‘The Vehicle Detection Technology does not have access to any data, including warranty status.’

Steve Cann, insurance provide manager for BMW Financial Services, explained further to defend the reasoning behind the implementation of the new scheme. He said: ‘Our customers expect an elevated level of customer service and personalised digital marketing is just one way in which we can engage with them at this expected level.’

He claims that ‘tailored billboard messaging is a unique way of engaging with BMW owners outside of their homes that we hope will leave a memorable impression.’

Head of warranty at Allianz Partners UK also added that the initiative ‘brings together digital marketing expertise and product innovation and is an exciting opportunity to reach prospective customers on the move, during a time when physical interaction is restricted.’

Regardless of this reassurance, commentators took to the internet to express their dislike for the Big-Brother style scheme. One motorist commented on BMW’s ‘arrogance’ while another suggested that BMW had lost its ‘grasp on what the public wants and how they deserve to be treated.’

Another implied that this new marketing scheme might backfire, with the suggestion that it ‘implies BMWs are so unreliable that they necessitate a warranty.’

This latest move is also not the first time in recent months that BMW has caused outrage online. Last month, internet users claimed that it insulted its ‘best customers’ by using a term of ‘insult’ and ‘derision’ in response to a YouTube comment about their new flagship iX electric SUV. To add to this, these new concerns about breached privacy come not longer after 400,000 BMW owners were impacted by the July 2020 data breach, exposing personal BMW driver information.

However, in defence of this latest cause of anguish, BMW has frequently reiterated that their new marketing technology will not name the driver or display information about their vehicle – the signs will only show ads for approved BMW warranty products. It does seem, however, that this reassurance has done little to reduce the online backlash.

Clever marketing tactic or technology taken too far? Would highly-personalised targeted billboard ads sway you? Or does this Big-Brother style scheme make you uncomfortable?

Tell us in the comments.

‘Stealth cameras’ on smart motorways responsible for dramatic increase in speeding fines

‘Stealth cameras’ on smart motorways responsible for dramatic increase in speeding fines

Speeding fines hit an all-time high across England and Wales in 2020, reaching 2.3 million. Research shows that 253,000 of these speeding fines were the result of increased numbers of ‘stealth cameras’ installed on smart motorways.

Figures sourced by the Daily Mail show that ‘253,000 Notices of Intended Prosecution (NPIs) were issued in the 12 months up to Autumn 2020 by 17 of the 20 police forces whose areas cover smart motorways in England and Wales.’

For the first time, these figures have highlighted the significant number of penalties (almost 10% of all speeding fines) are issued on motorways as a result of ‘stealth cameras’.

Deemed vital to the smooth-running of smart motorways, the amount of ‘stealth cameras’ in use has dramatically increased over the last few years, with the number of speed cameras in general having trebled over the last decade. This means that more and more drivers are regularly being caught out.

The RAC suggests that one reason as to why this might be the case is because ‘drivers do not realise cameras on smart motorways, that enforce variable speed limits, can still catch you travelling over the national speed limit when a variable limit isn’t in place.’

However, Highways England has frequently warned that ‘if no special speed limit is in place then the national speed limit applies.’ Speed cameras are in operation on smart motorways. If you don’t keep to the speed limit, you may receive a fine.’

With smart motorways already accounting for 416 miles of road in England and Wales, and with the expectation that this will double in length by 2025, many additional cameras are set to be installed.

Despite these warnings, smart motorways and ‘stealth cameras continue to be a cause of controversy, with these new speeding fine figures serving only to add fuel to the fire.

[Image source: Shutterstock, Jan 2021]

 

The problem with smart motorways

Via various traffic management methods, smart motorways are designed to improve traffic flow, increase capacity and reduce congestion in busy areas. However, a number of fatal accidents that saw cars break down in live lanes without the protection of a hard-shoulder brought their efficiency and safety into question. Now, campaigners claim that they are also responsible for the growing numbers of unfair speeding fines.

Motoring organisations claim that the rise in speeding fines is because the ‘stealth cameras’ are difficult to spot. They are small, mounted on the side of gantries at the edge of the motorway and, perhaps most concerningly, are often hidden by vegetation or signs. Despite pleas from Highways England for drivers to report obscured cameras, campaigners still claim that this issue is responsible for unfair speed fining.

‘Stealth cameras’, dubbed as such for their original grey colour, are now in operation on the M1, M25, M3, M4, M5, M6, M20, M42 and M62. There are 168 of these cameras in total.

In recent days, motoring groups have raised concerns about how these cameras are being used. Edmund King, AA president, said: ‘The majority of drivers support the use of cameras if used for safety reasons, but there are inconsistencies in their use which can catch drivers out.’

Mr King also suggested that signage could be adding to the issue, despite motorway display signs warning motorists of in-use cameras. He said: ‘signs should be displayed on all gantries that are in place as the objective should be to slow people down, not catch them out.’

Motoring groups are also concerned about when the cameras are being used, with some police forces using them at all times including when the 70mph limit applies, while others only switch them on when reduced speed limits are in place. These groups claim that this lack of clarity is the cause of many an unfair speeding fine.

Highways England, however, have defended the use of ‘stealth cameras’ with Jeremy Phillips, head of road safety at Highways England, reassuring motorists that ‘we’re not using cameras to catch drivers out or make more money out of fines. They’re there to encourage drivers to stick to speed limits, for the safety of everyone using the road, and to help traffic flow freely.’

He also reinforced the fact that the cameras are ‘bright yellow and clearly-signed; alerting drivers to the presence of cameras’ which ‘helps to encourage compliance and improves safety.’

Have you been caught out by motorway ‘stealth cameras’? Do they make our roads safer, or are they the cause of the increase in unfair speeding fines?

Let us know in the comments.