Councils have been accused of using CCTV cameras to enforce parking restrictions, even though the practice goes against official government policy.
Ministers, including local government secretary Eric Pickles, vented frustration at councils that instantly issue fines, rather than use discretion, to keep the cash rolling in.
Mr Pickles, who has been making himself a bit of a hero among motorists in recent times, accused councils of “bending the law to fill their coffers with taxpayers’ cash”, adding that it was “a constitutional affront that Englishmen and women are being fined in arbitrary and unfair ways”.
“It’s time to stand up for hard-working families and local shops in the face of these town hall parking bullies,” he said.
The remarks were fired towards councils by the Traffic Penalty Tribunal – a watchdog set up to deal with parking ticket appeals – during a talk in parliament with the Transport Select Committee.
“Adjudicators have found cases where camera enforcement appears to be used as a matter of routine where the strict requirements for use in the Guidance do not appear to be present,” the tribunal said to MPs.
“Modern-day occurrences call for sensible and considerate handling of representations.” A ‘zero-tolerance’ policy ‘cannot be appropriate’, it added.
The Department for Transport states CCTV should only be employed when the use of a traffic warden would be impractical.
Issues with the use of CCTV enforcement include making it hard for a driver to challenge a fine that arrives sometime later and that, even if an emergency services vehicle forced a motorist into a no waiting area, a fine would be issued.
Councils are expected to make £635 million profit from parking this year ─ not exactly what you would call breaking even. More than 300 councils have the power to keep the income raised from charges and fines, but only if the money is used to control traffic, ease congestion and improve roads.
Eric Pickles recently put forward a proposal that would allow motorists a grace period of 15 minutes on double yellow lines.