Traffic wardens issue 'dodgy' parking tickets to meet 'targets'

  • 23 September 2013
  • From the section London
Media captionLondon councils deny setting parking ticket targets

Traffic wardens have claimed they are giving out "dodgy" parking tickets to meet quotas set by councils in London.

The civil enforcement officers (CEO) in Camden and Ealing told BBC London's Inside Out programme they sometimes submitted fraudulent photographic evidence and fabricated evidence in pocket books to help increase the number of penalty charge notices (PCNs) issued.

The two councils have contracts for parking enforcement with NSL, the UK's biggest parking contractor.

Ealing, Camden and NSL deny setting targets on the number of PCNs to be issued and deny any wrongdoing.

The Traffic Management Act prohibits councils or private companies from setting targets for either the number of tickets they issue or the revenue they raise.

However, Camden and Ealing's contracts set out expected hourly and annual ticketing rates.

The councils said the ticket numbers were estimates which helped them calculate the staffing levels they needed to deploy.

However, Inside Out obtained a secret recording of one NSL manager in Ealing putting pressure on CEOs to increase their ticket issuing rates.

He tells them: "Performance has gone down quite remarkably in the last two months - as a result of that the client [Ealing Council] is on our back... like they're all over me like a bout of measles at the moment."

Enforcement officers disciplined

He goes on to warn the officers overtime and even their jobs could be at risk unless they increase ticket issuing rates.

In addition in leaked emails, the same manager tells his supervisors to discipline officers who do not issue enough tickets.

One CEO in Ealing told the BBC: "Day-to-day, less and less people are parking illegally because they're learning from their mistakes.

"So sometimes you have to go out and issue a dodgy ticket - they will leave blank pages in their pocket book.

"They will issue before the full observation time on certain offences, like commercial vehicles in the loading bays should get 20 minutes - they will issue after five or six minutes."

One former Camden CEO has said: "Many people manipulate pocket books.

"Discussions that never happened suddenly materialise and because the pocket book is our witness… the tendency is it's taken on board as evidence."

Another CEO told the programme what happened if ticket issuing rates were not met.

"Sometimes they will not approve holiday, not give you overtime, they will change your rest days - they will make your life a living hell," he said.

Under its key performance indicators (KPI), the benchmarks that ultimately dictate the pay rate for NSL, the Camden contract specifies a year one target for on-street CEO of issuing 1.3 parking tickets an hour.

For parking infringements caught on CCTV, the target is set at 2.5 tickets an hour.

The contract also states "issue rates per deployed hour must be achieved or exceeded to have met this KPI".

'Legal semantics'

Under the heading PCN issue rates, the Ealing contract specifies an expected ticket rate of 110,000 per annum and 100,000 for CCTV tickets.

The contract says the council "reserves the right to change these levels at its sole discretion".

Both contracts were signed in 2010 and are still in force.

Commenting on both contracts, senior litigation lawyer Keith Oliver from the law firm Peters and Peters said the documents were a "clever exercise in legal semantics".

He added: "Instinctively I would like to think that a court, properly advised looking at all the case laws surrounding this area, may well conclude that the contracts are at least arguably unlawful."

He said if a court found the contracts did contain targets which were unlawful, all the PCNs issued during the life of the contract could also be deemed unlawful.

Camden Council said in a statement: "Camden Council does not set targets for the number of PCNs that are required to be issued.

"Camden also does not financially reward either our contractor NSL or civil enforcement officers for the number of penalty charge notices issued.

"To suggest otherwise is factually incorrect."

'Appropriate action'

Ealing Council said in a statement: "Our parking contract and practices are entirely lawful.

"We have never asked NSL to meet ticket quotas, nor do we pay incentives or impose penalties for the number of tickets issued."

Both authorities pointed out the overall number of penalty charge notices issued in their boroughs were coming down.

In a statement NSL said: "NSL is not contracted by any local authority to meet targets for PCNs issued.

"If evidence is provided that suggests our employees have not complied with our policies and procedures we will investigate and take the appropriate action."

You can watch the full report on Inside Out London on BBC One on 23 September at 19:30 BST.

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