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Councils told to relax parking enforcement

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The Department for Transport has ordered local authorities to show more discretion when issuing parking fines and to move away from the attitude that issuing parking tickets is a money-making exercise.

The move follows widespread criticism of new rules, which are part of the Road Traffic Management Act, that come into force on April 1.

The new Act will allow for graduated fines as well as permitting councils to use CCTV evidence to issue tickets.

This means drivers may not know that they have been accused of illegally parking until they receive a ticket in the post.

To try to allay fears of a backlash from motorists against the new laws, councils have now been told to follow the Department’s new framework for parking enforcement, which stipulates that authorities should avoid setting targets for the number tickets issued.

Councils will also have to make motorists aware of how to appeal against fines.

In addition, traffic enforcement officers, which were formerly known as traffic wardens and parking attendants, are also being instructed to allow more leeway regarding minor offences, for example giving a verbal warning rather than issuing a ticket.

They are also being encouraged only to clamp persistent offenders.

“The Government has been quite clear that parking enforcement must be fair, clear, consistent and based on robust evidence. We want to increase public confidence in parking,” transport minister, Rosie Winterton, said.

"There is a perception that motorists are sometimes unfairly penalised.

To overcome this we are introducing new powers to make parking enforcement fairer and easier to challenge."

However, there are still significant concerns about the new parking fine system.

Following Ms Winterton’s statement, the AA has warned motorists to be extra vigilant from the end of this month.

“Motorists may be unaware that they can get ticketed for parking at a dropped kerb or half a metre from the pavement,” said a spokesman.

“There are no street signs to indicate these offences, so the AA hopes that the civil enforcement officers will show some flexibility until the message gets across to motorists.”

The new regulations state that a ticket can be issued by post if the enforcement officer had started to issue the ticket but did not have enough time to finish it or serve it before the vehicle was driven away.

The AA says this could lead to more “ghost tickets” and ticketing of disabled blue badge holders or people delivering or dropping off passengers.

“The changes bring some good news for motorists such as limiting wheel clamping to persistent offenders, lower fines for less serious offences, and giving the adjudicators powers to send cases back to local authorities,” Edmund King, AA president said.

“However, the last minute change in the law to allow the serving of parking tickets by post if the ticket was started is worrying.

"The AA believes in real-time tickets not extra time tickets and thinks it is crucial that a ticket is completed, not simply started, before the vehicle moves off.”

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