London Councils Making Even More Money From Parking

The RAC Foundation have published some figures on how much local Councils profit from parking. The latest data shows that the profits they make have risen by 7% to £930 million in the last year. The profits in some London boroughs are the highest in the country with Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea, Wandsworth, Hammersmith & Fulham, Camden and Islington all being in the top 7. In fact 12 of the 13 highest profiteers in the country are all in London with only Brighton & Hove being the exception.

Total income received from parking was £1.75 billion with costs incurred were £0.82 billion. Income comes from on-street parking, permit parking schemes, off-street car parks owned or run by Councils and parking enforcement. They are not supposed to make a profit from on-street parking but clearly do in many cases. However they can legally charge what they like for off-street car parks.

Any surplus from on-street parking is supposed to be spent on transport improvements but that is in practice a very broad item and includes expenditure such as supporting concessionary public transport fares, cycle lanes and many other things that have no benefit whatsoever to vehicle users who have paid for the parking. In reality Councils are using parking fees as a slush fund to finance all kinds of projects in some boroughs. Some of the surplus is spent on road maintenance but that has been falling which is why there are more and more potholes on our roads.

It is surely time for national government to intervene to rectify these abuses that are taking place because high parking charges are destroying many High Streets and Town Centres as retailers are already under pressure from the internet.

For more information and to see how your local borough compares the RAC Foundation report is present here:


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£50 to Drive into Westminster, and Superhighway Challenge?

The City of Westminster is proposing to impose a 50% surcharge borough-wide for parking of older diesel vehicles – those registered before 2015. It has already trialled such a scheme in Marylebone. On-street parking charges will rise therefore to £7.35 per hour in the West End.

The Times newspaper suggested that taking into account the London Congestion Charge (a.k.a. Tax), and the additional tax of £12.50 being imposed by the Ultra Low Emission Zone in 2019, that will mean that driving into the area and parking for just a few hours will result in charges of over £50. That should deter the casual shoppers or business visitors unless they own newer lower emission vehicles.

There is likely to be a public consultation on this proposal so if you are affected by it keep an eye out for that. Westminster Council consultations are listed here:

Cycle Superhighway Challenge

Westminster Council are pushing ahead with a legal challenge to Cycle Superhighway 11 (CS11) which runs through Swiss Cottage. A judicial review has been launched and will likely be heard in September. In the meantime, the street works which were due to start imminently have been put on hold. New Deputy Mayor of Transport Heidi Alexander called the Council’s move a “disgrace”. But why should not a local council challenge the typically unaccountable actions of Transport for London (TfL) if enough of their residents object? CS11 has been vigorously opposed by many people who live in North London. The basis of the council’s objections is that the current plans will increase congestion and air pollution.


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London Plan – Comments Submitted

We made some initial comments on the “London Plan” in December. That is a document that spells out how Mayor Sadiq Khan intends to plan your life – at least so far as residents of London are concerned or those who have to use the transport system in the capital.

What’s the London Plan? It’s a document that sets the “spatial development” strategy for London over the next few years and has legal implications for planning developments, housing construction, transport infrastructure, and many other aspects of our lives.

The London Plan spells out how he intends to enforce “modal shift”, i.e. force you to use public transport or walk/cycle and ensure you take more exercise to improve your health. He intends to turn roads whose essential purpose is the movement of goods and people into places for “social interaction”.

Cars and other private transport modes will be discouraged by such means as reducing parking provision to zero, thus forcing us back into the Victorian era if not further.

He wants to fix his budget problems arising from financial incompetence and promises he made to get elected, now called a “funding gap”, by raising taxes including taking control of Vehicle Excise Duty (VED).

Some of this is covered in the Mayor’s Transport Strategy of course which we have encouraged people to respond to. But the important point is that unlike that where the Mayor will decide on the outcome, the London Plan is the subject of an inquiry led by a Planning Inspector, i.e. it’s an independent review.

Roger Lawson


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Publicity for Traffic Management Proposals

We have set up a petition on the government website demanding that traffic authorities should be required to give greater publicity to proposed traffic management measures, such as reduced speed limits, traffic calming schemes, waiting restrictions etc, so that all road users, including drivers who use the roads but don’t live in the area, are made aware of them and have the opportunity to object.  The petition is now live and is at:

Please consider signing the petition and passing the details on to others who may wish to do so.

Roger Lawson

Westminster Diesel Parking Charge

The London Borough of Westminster is to trial an increased on-street parking charge for diesel vehicles. It will be a trial scheme in the Marylebone/Fitzrovia areas starting in April. Diesel vehicles will pay an extra 50% on the normal charge of £4.90 per hour.

The object is stated to improve air quality by deterring diesel vehicle usage and ownership. The additional money raised will be used to subsidise public transport schemes.

There are potentially two problems with this. Firstly it looks like a revenue raising measure when the law is quite clear on this matter (see Camden v. Cran and the more recent Barnet case). The Acts of Parliament that enable councils to charge for parking do not permit “revenue raising” measures.

Secondly, how will parking enforcement staff know whether a vehicle is diesel powered or not? Some models can be powered by either and the badge on them may not differentiate. Will parking attendants have access to DVLA records or will they be relying on the honesty of vehicle owners?

Hammersmith & Fulham

Diesel surcharges for permit parking are also an issue in the Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham. Councillor Greg Smith, Leader of the Conservative Group on the Council, had this to say at a recent meeting: “It is nonsensical from an environmental perspective. Diesel cars are simply not the worst offenders for putting nitrogen dioxide and nitrous oxide into the air. The worst offenders are aircraft and heavy goods vehicles, with buses and black cabs also contributing.”. He suggested the Council should encourage renewal of domestic boilers to cut pollution.

He also said “Bizarrely from a party who are supposed to be about fairness and the redistribution of wealth, it is deeply unfair to those who can least afford to change their vehicle AND beneficial to the owners of more expensive, fuel inefficient cars.

Indeed, we must ask ourselves why is it that a Labour Council is taxing the owner of a diesel Ford Fiesta on Crookham Road in my ward more, but the £119,000, 16 feet long Porsche Cayenne Turbo S parked next to it gets a tax break by still only paying £119 a year, despite taking up five feet more in length! Or perhaps they are proud of wanting to charge the owner of the 75mpg Skoda Fabia on Mimosa Street more to park, but the £132,000, 15mpg, 550hp, 5.0 Litre V8 Supercharged Petrol, Range Rover SV Autobiography parked next to it less.

Is that what the Labour Party has become? Champion of the supercar? Promoter of the Porsche? Friend of the Ferrari? All great cars, but it just doesn’t add up with what they say they are trying to achieve.

To be generous, Labour are confused on this matter. To be more accurate, I think they are engaged on a mission of spite – desperate for a headline, but without any substance or foundation.”

Comment: Yes these kind of taxes are token environmental gestures when there is little data provided on what the benefit will be. So as so often these days we get policies promoted without any proper cost/benefit analysis and the cost of introducing these schemes is simply ignored. It’s truly “gesture politics” of the worst kind.

Westminister Council is also a particularly bad example of a lack of democratic accountability and information provision. Try searching their web site for information on these proposals, reports on the topic, minutes of meetings that considered the issue, public consultations, or ways to object etc. You can’t find anything!

Roger Lawson

Parking Enforcement by Camera in Bromley

Readers will probably be aware of the new Deregulation Act which has severely limited the use of cameras to enforce parking. They can only be used now to enforce:

– school keep clear markings

– bus stop/stand clearways

– red routes

– bus lanes

These were granted as exceptions to the general principle of not allowing camera enforcement after representations by local authorities that it would make for great difficulties in enforcement. However, there is still the overriding guidance on operational use issued by the Department for Transport.

Bromley Council had been using 4 mobile camera cars to enforce parking restrictions generally in addition to outside schools, i.e. when outside school opening closing times and during school holidays they were deployed on other roads. These will now be scrapped (and probably don’t have any resale value) as the limited use now possible for them makes them uneconomic. Instead to enforce school zig-zag areas they will be replaced with ten automated CCTV cameras that will be rotated around Bromley’s schools.

These are “automated” in the sense that by software they identify automatically infringements (and simply stopping, not parking, on the zig-zags is an infringement, but a PCN will only be issued after a review by a Civil Enforcement Officer). In addition another ten automated cameras will be used to enforce bus lanes (to replace “manned” static cameras).

The council expects to generate more income from the parking cameras, with no more cost, but less income from the bus lane cameras due to changes to Bromley High Street, resulting in a net small reduction in overall “surplus” on such operations. The Council was very concerned about the impact of the Deregulation Act on parking surpluses which are a significant contribution to overall Council budgets.

This writer asked a question on the legality of the new approach at a Council Meeting on the 30th September. The answers given by the Committee Chairman did not satisfy me so I subsequently wrote this letter to him, which spells out the issues:

Dear Mr Huntington-Thresher,

I must say I was very disappointed by your answer to my question at the Environment PDS Committee last week.

As I pointed out in the meeting, the current “Operational Guidance to Local Authorities” makes it quite clear that the use of cameras (which result in PCNs being sent in the post to infringers) is severely limited. As it says in that document, the guidance “advises all English enforcement authorities of the procedures that they must follow, the procedures to which they must have regard and the procedures that the Government recommends they follow when enforcing parking restrictions” so effectively it has the force of law.

Although I do not wish to encourage anyone to park on the zig-zags outside schools, the use of automated cameras to enforce them is not compliant with the rules on operational Guidance in the aforementioned document or with the Deregulation Act 2015. Indeed the above document says specifically that “Where approved devices may be used, the Secretary of State recommends that approved devices are used only where enforcement is difficult or sensitive and CEO enforcement is not practical“.

As I pointed out in the meeting, I do not see why enforcement by CEOs in the normal way would not be possible outside schools. Even if motorists drive away before being given a ticket they can be sent by post later, and as on zig-zags even stopping temporarily is an infringement there is no need to allow for grace periods. So enforcement would not be “difficult or sensitive” – no more than for any other parking offence. The additional argument was put that people might drive off in a hurry if they saw enforcement happening and cause an accident, but that seems very unlikely. In essence the presence of a CEO is much more likely to deter stopping or parking outside schools which is the whole point of the exercise whereas an automated camera will just result in post-facto fines.

Your response was in essence, well if we get challenged in law and lose the challenges then we will reconsider. But in the meantime we will spend a lot a money implementing these cameras and issuing tickets.

To my mind this is a most irresponsible attitude. Firstly it flouts the law and councils should not set such a bad example, and secondly it might result in the council incurring the liability of having to refund all past PCNs when they are shown to be wrong – and that’s apart from the money wasted on the cameras that might prove to be useless in due course.

The proper course of action would be a) take proper legal advice on the matter by consulting the Secretary of State at the Department of Transport, and/or some other independent legal authority before this plan goes ahead.

I probably don’t need to point out to you that clearly this plan is motivated by financial objectives – namely that using an automated system is likely to produce revenue at minimal cost. But you should not be using parking fines to generate profits, which is again contrary to Government guidelines.

In general the proliferation of cameras everywhere is abhorred by the general public. We don’t wish to live in a big brother society where our every move is monitored by authorities and even accidental infringements of petty rules get penalised.

I ask you again to reconsider these proposals.

Roger Lawson 9/10/2015

Final Comment: Although one appreciates the focus of councillors on running a balanced budget, using cameras and automated processes to issue PCNs is a recipe for disgruntled voters. Perhaps the Council should consider a scheme similar to that recently pioneered by Thurrock Council in Essex – namely training teachers and parents to issue PCNs outside schools.