Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland parking fines fail to cover costs

traffic warden
Image caption Parking penalties do not cover the cost of Northern Ireland's parking services

More than 125,800 parking tickets were issued across Northern Ireland in 2011, according to Department of Regional Development figures.

The high figures in some urban areas add weight to claims by business representatives that aggressive ticketing meant to improve traffic flow is driving customers away.

They show that £36.1m was paid for parking enforcement and car-park services contract with NSL (formerly NCP) since October 2006 against £22.5m raised by parking tickets.

The revenue raised by parking tickets is used, along with the income from car parking and other charges, to supplement the overall financing of DRD's Roads Service by central government.

As well as the cost to businesses and ticketed drivers, parking enforcement is also coming at a high price for local taxpayers.

Additionalfiguresobtained from the Detail news site from the DRD show that the cost of enforcement has been steadily increasing since it was privatised in 2006.

Released

DRD admitted that the cost of providing parking services exceeded revenues received but insisted that the benefits of reduced congestion, improved access to town centres and improved road safety were vital to local economies.

The department released information on each of the 125,848 tickets issued in Northern Ireland between January 1st and December 31st last year in response to a Freedom of Information request.

Some towns were hit with thousands of tickets as a penalty for illegal parking, while drivers in other areas can relax in what appear to be ticket-free zones.

While members of the public shell out millions of pounds annually in parking ticket charges, the revenue goes nowhere near covering the costs of having 115 parking attendants patrolling our streets on a daily basis.

The DRD's Roads Service takes responsibility for the enforcement of most parking restrictions but on-the-ground enforcement is provided by private contractor NSL Services Group.

DRD Roads Service has no responsibility for parking restrictions or enforcement action on private ground, for example shopping centre and hospital car parks. The PSNI would also still deal with some criminal offences, like dangerous parking and parking causing an obstruction.

Each parking ticket issued by NSL costs car owners £60 - or £30 if it is paid within 14 days.

Parking enforcement

The revenue raised by parking tickets is used, along with the income from car parking and other charges, to supplement the overall financing of DRD's Roads Service by central government. However, the current cost of providing parking services far exceeds the revenues received.

Figures requested from DRD by The Detail show that £36.1m has been paid to NSL since the current parking enforcement and car-park services contract

The cost of the private contract has steadily increased since its first full year of operation in 2007/08 when DSD paid NSL £7m. The cost for the last financial year (2010/11) were almost a third higher at £9.3m.

The number of parking tickets issued has also declined with 160,000 written in 2007/08 compared with 118,000 in 2010/11.

However, the number of tickets issued from January-December 2011 was much higher than for the same period in 2010 - 125,848 compared with 116,009 the previous year.

A DRD spokesman said: "The income from PCNs (parking tickets) does not cover the full cost of the department's contract with NSL.

"The aim of effective parking enforcement is to reduce the number of illegally parked vehicles on our streets and in our car parks. If this is achieved then the income from PCNs is reduced and the deficit is increased.

"However, the consequential benefits of reduced congestion, improved access to town centres and improved road safety are seen as vital to local economies."

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