British minister says English councils' car parking ticket tactics illegal

Friday 27 September 2013 10.56
Eric Pickles said the use of CCTV by councils to generate revenue from parking tickets is illegal
Eric Pickles said the use of CCTV by councils to generate revenue from parking tickets is illegal

English local authorities have been accused of breaking the law by using parking enforcement powers as a "cash cow".

Councils in England could be banned from using CCTV cameras and 'spy cars' to impose parking fines on motorists under new proposals.

Local Government minister Eric Pickles said councils using parking to supplement their income were acting "outside the law".

He said they should prioritise tackling people who are "negligent or inconsiderate in terms of parking or causing dangers to others".

Mr Pickles criticised the use of CCTV to photograph cars for parking prosecutions saying cameras were installed originally under legislation to fight crime.

"We are worried that what is happening in local authorities is they are using parking fines as a kind of a cash cow from motorists. The legislation is very clear, you cannot do so," he said.

He said that between 75 councils, almost one million fines were issued by mobile cameras and ten million by static cameras over a five-year period.

"The legislation originally on CCTV was really about ensuring it was about stopping crime, not using it as a way just to pick out motorists to make that extra few bob," Mr Pickles said.

Asked if he thought that local authorities were using cameras "just to catch people out and raise money", he replied: "I'm afraid I do."

A British government consultation paper will suggest amending legislation underpinning the Traffic Management Act 2004 to outlaw the practice.

The Department for Transport says CCTV should be used only when it is impractical to use traffic wardens.

Mr Pickles said the government was also looking at increasing the "grace" period for motorists to get back to their vehicle before being fined from five minutes to 15 minutes.

He also suggested it will be made easier to challenge wrongly issued tickets.

The comments are being seen as an attempt to boost Conservative Party support ahead of its annual conference in Manchester.