Greenwich Council look set to bring parking enforcement on estates back in house in a meeting next week after a disastrous few years of outsourcing.
If you’ve had people blocking your drive, blocking dropped kerbs, parking on greenery, pavements and much else there was little chance of fines being issued for years. Even if they were issued, a private company would’ve retained all income.
Responsibility for enforcement – and I use the term lightly – on estates was given to a private company named Wings Parking. As part of the deal all fine income was to be retained by the private company.
Back in 2014 Government wrote to council’s warning that in future private companies could not access DVSA data on vehicle ownership to issue fines for illegal parking. Council’s however could continue to do so after the rule change.
Fast forward two years to 2016 and the rule was implemented, however only now is responsibility for enforcement being brought in house. In the meantime Greenwich’s solution was to spend hundreds of thousands on ever more street clutter in a failed attempt to prevent parking that blocked pavements.
Bringing enforcement at off-street parking back in-house will cost £478,000 with revenues of £1.9 million expected.
The blame game
The authority attempts to blame central Government though they’ve long had measures available that could have improved enforcement.
The report states: “Since 2014, local authorities have been put under further pressure by central government to stop using contract law to enforce parking restrictions on Council housing estates”.
“To encourage local authorities to comply, since 2016, the DVLA no longer provides registered keeper details of offending vehicles to enforcement companies operating on behalf of local authorities under contract law. In effect this means that if the Council does not hold the vehicle owner’s details and Wing Parking issues a PCN, the Council has no means of locating the vehicle owner and enforcing the penalty charge.”
However, instead of adopting change five years ago by bringing services in-house so they could issue fines and prevent illegal parking, Greenwich did nothing. They even renewed Wings’ contract in 2018.
Now, they state: “Having considered a number of options, officers have concluded that the optimum method of enforcement is through the making of Traffic Management Orders, a legal process with an embedded statutory consultation period, which would allow the Council to once again be able to request vehicle owner details from the DLVA and enforce the penalty fines.”
What those Officers were doing in 2018 renewing the contract even though it was four years after being told to stop, and two years after rule changes, remains a mystery. That’s large sums of money gone begging during a time of cuts.
The report continues to try to blame government for ineffective – to be polite – management at Greenwich Parking Department.
“In 2014 the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport wrote to all authorities, informing them that the Government does not recognise use of contract law on non-highway land and that local authority car parks should be regulated in the same way as public highways, by means of Traffic Management Orders.
From 2016 the DVLA started to refuse to provide registered keeper details of offending vehicles, making it increasingly difficult for Wing Parking to enforce parking controls in the Council’s housing estate car parks.”
Change in 2022
As Greenwich renewed the contract in 2018, there’s still another year to go with no income and little chance of enforcement. However in another part of the report it states change from later this year.
In terms of income, it could go on fixing potholes, new tarmac on roads, better cycle lanes or pedestrian space, shopping parade upgrades, funding travel passes for the elderly or much else. The only issue is Greenwich’s parking department are already badly stretched – so is there really much chance of enforcement?
It should also be noted this is only for “car parks” in 100 areas of the borough. What happens on roads in estates that aren’t technically car parks yet still under Wing’s jurisdiction? There’s no information.
The report muddies the water by talking of £57 charges for parking permits, however some Wing’s managed areas are roads on estate without any charges.
They appear in limbo. Look at Abbey Wood estate. Most illegal parking is on-street (including, ironically mass levels of pavement parking) yet under Greenwich Housing Department control and included in Wing’s jurisdiction in correspondence sent to me. So control will go back in-house or another pointless contract award with no chance of enforcement?
Now you and I may think the former and not the latter, but this is Greenwich Parking Department we are talking about.