THURROCK Council has found itself under fire for running its parking enforcement at a loss.
The criticism came from opposition Tories after portfolio holder Angie Gaywood gave her annual parking report at last week’s cabinet meeting, when it was revealed it is now costing £20,000 more a year to issue parking tickets than the Council collects.
A big part of the problem is foreign-registered vehicles which park illegally across the Borough but never pay up, despite being ticketed by the enforcement teams.
Such lorry parking is a significant problem in the Little Thurrock ward of Tory deputy leader Cllr Rob Gledhill and he led the way in condemning the alleged Council inefficiency.
He said: “I understand Labour have admitted they need to do more on collecting fines but the level of lost income will never be reflected in the public report. They need to stop trying to cover up their errors with silence or spin, hoping no one will hold them to account.
“Yet again I am dismayed to see Thurrock’s Labour leadership issue a report pretending to be good news.
“A quick look at the money involved and the reality soon becomes apparent. It’s probably one of the few Councils making a loss on parking fines.”
More than 12,500 tickets issued in the last three years have been left unpaid from a total of 40,000 tickets.
At cabinet, Cllr Gaywood said: “Last year, 30 per cent of notices issued remain outstanding, these figures are out there – I openly admit to that. However, nearly two thirds of these, over 18 per cent, relate to problems with foreign-registered vehicles.
“These are the ones specifically parking illegally in Thurrock, and although these receive penalty charge notices, the charges aren’t really easy to recover. There are difficulties attached to tracing the registered keepers of these vehicles, but officers will shortly be working with partner authorities throughout Europe to try and trace and collect these parking penalties issued.”
Another Conservative, Cllr Simon Wootton, quizzed Cllr Gaywood over ticketing revenue and the cost of enforcement, saying the net average income from a parking ticket was only £17.58, while the penalty was either £50 or £75 each.
Cllr Gaywood said: “The majority of penalty charge notices are paid within 14 days of receipt. This means that they have a discounted rate. Additionally, a number of tickets will also have been appealed, and if successful, additionally no charge.”
She added: “However, I am really pleased to advise, as mentioned in the Annual Parking Report, we are taking steps to improve the collection rate by registering more outstanding charges with the courts as debts. The debt recovery operation will shortly be passed over to the debt recovery team within the Council, and will follow the Council’s current fair debt policy.”
Despite the issue of a lack of profitability from parking tickets, Cllr Gaywood, the portfolio holder for Public Protection, outlined the Council’s campaign to be more lenient in regards to ticketing.
She said: “Civil Enforcement Officers (traditionally known as parking attendants) have been instructed to allow a few minutes of leniency to motorists wishing to stop and pick up a few shopping items without the threat of receiving a ticket. The scheme’s aim
is to help boost local businesses.”