I am delighted to be here today (10 June 2014) at Parkex and to be the first speaker at this new Hub.
And I would like to thank the British Parking Association and the Association for Town and City Management for organising this fantastic programme.
I know that many of you will be eagerly awaiting an announcement following the government’s recent consultation on parking enforcement.
The government will issue its formal response shortly but I want to give you a flavour of our thinking this morning.
And I welcome any questions you may have.
Millions of people tuned into watch the TV series ‘Parking Mad’ and parking is rarely out of the newspapers or out our postbags for one simple reason - we will all need to park at some point.
Effective parking management is essential for businesses to survive and grow.
It helps us be good neighbours.
And it is critical for a growing economy.
But as anyone who has driven round and round to find a space or has been blocked in will tell you – parking isn’t simple.
The space on our roads is finite and we ask parking management to achieve several objectives in parallel.
And it is a task that is becoming more difficult and, at the same time, more important.
The UK already has more motor vehicles per mile than France, Germany or even the densely populated Netherlands.
Statistics published by my department recently showed that traffic levels in our nation are rising as economic growth gathers pace. The first quarter of 2014 shows traffic up by 4.1% compared with the first quarter of 2013, and vehicles travelled 78.5 billion miles – that’s the highest quarterly figure since the peak of 78.9 billion miles in 2008.
And traffic on our roads is forecast to increase further.
And as the traffic on our roads grows, public concern rises and the need for high quality traffic and parking management increases.
Over the past few years the parking industry has become increasingly skilled and much more professional.
Now more than 9 out of 10 local authorities have taken over the civil enforcement of their parking services. And the public are keen for the remaining areas to do so. I wrote to remaining authorities recently to encourage take-up.
This has improved compliance, reduced congestion, freed up the police and – most importantly – made our roads safer.
But despite the increasing professionalism of the sector there is public unease about some local authorities’ approach to parking and traffic enforcement; although this perception varies considering from council to council.
In the words of the Transport Select Committee, there is a ‘deeply rooted public perception that local authorities view parking enforcement as a cash cow’.
From 1997-98 to 2010-11, net surpluses from parking rose from £223 million to £512 million.
Net income from local authority parking services is expected to rise from £601 million in 2012-13 to £635 million in 2013-14 - an increase of 5.6%.
And where effective parking management breaks down – like in Aberystwyth as well as in my own constituency in Scarborough – it causes real problems.
I know that headline figure for Councils’ income reflects parking charges as well as penalties, but I am determined that public confidence in enforcement should not be undermined.
Indeed I was surprised to discover that for some authorities, penalty charges far outweigh income from the purchase of parking spaces.
We can’t afford to have the success of civil enforcement risked by the actions of a few.
That’s why, following the Transport Select Committee’s recommendation, we decided to consult on the future of parking.
The government received a very large number of responses to the consultation.
I am looking very carefully at all the contributions to the consultation.
And I am very grateful to everyone who responded.
We will not be taking any hasty decisions.
Because we need to get it right.
The first issue we asked about was the use of CCTV.
It was reported to the Transport Select Committee that some councils have been using CCTV for parking enforcement as “a matter of routine”.
That is not acceptable.
The surveillance camera code of practice has long been clear that CCTV should be used sparingly and only where other means of enforcement are unpractical.
Your consultation response made a a very strong case was to retain CCTV camera enforcement in four areas.
Around schools, in bus lanes, at bus stops, and on red-routes.
Which we will consider carefully.
But what is essential is that the public have confidence that where CCTV is being used it is to promote safety and to tackle congestion.
Localism and Resident’s reviews
The second area of concern was whether parking management was as responsive as it could be to public concerns.
In particular whether we are responding quickly enough to help high streets compete with out of town and online retail.
An Association of Town & City Management and BPA survey found that some middle range high streets are charging around a fifth more than larger and more prosperous shopping areas.
But at the moment there are relatively weak levers available for people to raise this as an issue with their local Council. I am grateful for all the responses to our consultation which will help to determine the best way ahead.
I firmly believe that most involved in the parking industry, from local authorities to private-sector service providers aim to make sure that parking is enforced fairly and proportionately.
The use of CCTV, in particular, causes public concern.
But so does the perception that enforcement officers are waiting to pounce the moment the meter runs out.
We know that is not the case.
And that the vast majority sensibly wait some time before issuing a PCN.
But motorists should not be fearful about returning to their vehicles a few minutes late. Indeed, in most cases, driver return with unexpired time left and the council can then re-sell the space and, in effect, be paid double.
We want to ensure that public confidence in parking enforcement isn’t undermined by the actions of an overzealous few.
So we asked whether we need a more formal grace period at the end of expired time.
The Select Committee also asked whether the current appeals system is fair for those who inadvertently make a mistake.
Their sense was that the current system discourages people from appealing their tickets.
People who have a legitimate reason not to pay are simply giving up and paying the fine.
That offends a sense of natural justice.
But on the other hand, there is a legitimate concern that discounts on prompt payments following appeal would result in every charge being appealed.
So, we need to strike a balance.
And I am grateful for the responses to the consultation that have suggested how we could resolve this difficult issue.
There will be other changes to parking.
We are consulting on changes to the TSRGD - Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions.
That’s quite a mouthful.
They are the Bible about traffic signs.
In the same way that we listened to views about parking enforcement we will listen to views about changes to traffic signs.
Graham Hanson from the Traffic Signs Policy team at the Department for Transport is speaking here at Parkex this afternoon, and will explain the proposed changes.
The consultation closes this week, so if you haven’t already responded you have a little time left.
We propose to streamline the new regulations.
We want to give local authorities greater freedom.
We intend to remove the constraints over what can appear on parking signs – you will be able to pick and choose from a wide ‘menu’ of clear messages.
We also propose removing the mandatory links tying together upright signs and road markings.
For example - take a ‘loading only’ restriction that operates at all times.
If you decide that a bay marking on the road surface on its own is sufficiently clear to the motorist - without an upright sign - then so be it.
That will be your choice as a local authority.
I also would like to put an end to the mini-industry that has spawned looking at the technical details and legal loopholes of parking bays.
I want to make life simpler for motorists and local authorities so that if it looks like a parking bay, it is a parking bay.
Gone would be the days where people measure the length or width of a line to appeal a parking ticket.
We are also considering removing the need to amend a traffic regulation order to change yellow lines. To avoid that bureaucracy, the yellow lines and accompanying signs will be all that is needed.
Local authorities will not need to produce a legal instrument to make changes.
We will consider all the responses to the traffic signs consultation and respond later this year, in time to have new regulations in place by the end of March 2015.
So please do respond if you haven’t already.
I know that today I have focussed on on-street parking provided by local government.
And that many of the delegates here today operate private car parks, manage them on behalf of land-owners, or work as bailiffs to recover debts.
We made substantial changes to the law when we banned clamping and introduced keeper liability.
I am delighted with the professional response by the parking sector.
Your work shows that industry self-regulation can succeed.
The establishment of Parking On private Land Appeals, providing motorists with independent and free appeals is testament to the high standards that are often promoted by parking professionals.
In conclusion, you are providing well designed, fair and proportionate parking services.
That means the sector being vigilant to stop examples of poor management or bad practice that appear prominently in the media when they happen.
Because parking and traffic management is important.
It’s important to the public.
It’s important for our communities.
And it’s vital for the health of our economy.
Thank you for listening.