Pickles targets councils who use CCTV for 'cash cow' parking fines
Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has vowed to rein in Westcountry councils which use parking enforcement as a "cash cow" – promising a ban on the use of CCTV to impose fines on motorists.
Two councils in the region currently use the cameras, as well as so-called "spy cars" to slap the fines on motorists but the cabinet minister has promised to stamp down on such behaviour.
Mr Pickles said yesterday that local authorities which use parking fines as a "cash cow" were in breach of current legislation.
He also vowed to amend legislation to outlaw the practice which enabled councils to use CCTV for on-street parking enforcement, which has been on the rise since it was introduced in the Traffic Management Act in 2004.
Some 75 local authorities in the country currently have permission to use the method.
Plymouth City Council and Torbay Council both operate "spy-cars", and use CCTV to impose parking fines.
Mr Pickles said: "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.
"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.
"Excessive parking charges and unfair parking fines push up the cost of living, and undermine local high streets and shopping parades. We want to rein over-zealous parking enforcement, so it focuses on supporting high streets and motorists, not raising money. Parking spy cars are just one example of this and a step too far. Public confidence is strengthened in CCTV if it is used to tackle crime, not to raise money for council coffers."
The Department for Transport said 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.
Plymouth City councillor Mark Coker, cabinet member for transport, said camera enforcement was highly effective and the number of fines had dropped. He said: "Every penny of net income from parking and bus lane enforcement is reinvested in road repairs for the city."
Torbay Council declined to comment on "a political issue".