London

Councils to be probed over parking enforcement

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Media captionInside Out meets the London parking wardens who say they use 'dirty tricks' to issue unfair tickets to innocent motorists

London councils are to be investigated over their parking enforcement after evidence suggests they have been illegally setting targets.

BBC Inside Out London has seen contracts from Lambeth, Bromley and Hackney councils which appear to set targets for tickets.

They say they do not have targets and the number issued annually has fallen.

Local government minister Brandon Lewis said he would look in to the legality of the contracts.

The Traffic Management Act states that performance and rewards or penalties should never be based on the number of Penalty Charge Notices (PCN) issued, and that authorities should not set targets for revenue.

In Bromley's contract, with enforcement company VINCI, there is a baseline of 72,000 tickets and for every PCN over that number the company gets a performance payment of up to £20 a ticket.

Hackney employs APCOA, where traffic wardens are ranked into different bands according to their hourly ticket-issue rates. The contract states that no more than 10% of wardens can fall below band two.

Lambeth meanwhile employs NSL which it "requires" to issue 205,000 tickets per annum.

Commercial litigation lawyer Keith Oliver said it was "disgraceful, unacceptable (and) arguably unlawful".

Image caption Bromley Council's contract appears to have a performance payment of up to £20

'Tested in law'

Looking at the contracts, Mr Lewis said they appeared to be illegal.

"These look like entirely the wrong kind of contract to me... motivating and encouraging staff to go out and penalise people."

He added: "Our lawyers will look at that as well but I think it would be right to see this tested in law and if it is then proven, we can make sure councils are not allowed to do this."

In response, Bromley Council said it did not set targets for revenue from parking enforcement income and that its contract "commenced in 2006, predating the statutory guidance by two years".

The council added that its lawyers "remain content with the integrity of the contract".

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Image caption Councils are not allowed to set targets for the issuing of PCNs

Lambeth Council also denied it had set targets, but said it had a guidance figure so NSL could plan the number of staff it needed.

NSL said it did not incur a penalty for not issuing tickets and that there were no rewards for issuing them.

Hackney Council said it "sets no targets for the issue of penalty charge notices, nor gives the contractor any incentive for its officers to issue more than they feel necessary".

It added that to avoid confusion, a decision had been made to remove this section from the contract altogether.

Inside Out London is broadcast on Monday, 27 January, on BBC One at 19:30 GMT and nationwide on the iPlayer for seven days thereafter.

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