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Parking and CCTV

The Department for Transport consultation on on-street parking, suggesting an end to council CCTV being used to enforce parking rules, features in the February 2014 print issue of Professional Security Magazine. Kelvin Reynolds, Director of Policy and Public Affairs at the British Parking Association (BPA) comments.

The biggest challenge is the public’s dislike for robotic enforcement using CCTV (and by inference ANPR) plus the perception that every council makes a lot of money out of parking enforcement.

A blanket ban as approached in the Transport Select Committee’s report is to muddy the waters as it does not differentiate between safety and bad parking practices, where and when it is deployed, how effective it is and who benefits from its services.

It’s not helpful when the Secretary of State for Communities in England announces greater town hall transparency, but then adds “…As part of that we will expose a great council cash cow cover-up unmasking punitive parking practices that hit residents in the pocket. We’re calling time on local war against motorists – now, more than ever, we need to see the back of this shopping tax and encourage more people onto the high street.”

This statement adds fuel to the flames of poor public perception about parking, its provision, management and enforcement. There is some really good work being done by our local authority members, true parking professionals, and this should be recognised. The call to ban CCTV or ANPR in the communities that the DCLG represents is also a paradox. It is the communities themselves that request enforcement be undertaken outside schools, for example.

However, the use of ANPR and camera technology while extremely efficient and effective is the opposite of what motorists who are attempting to flout the rules want. They don’t want to be caught in contravention of parking controls on a public road, car park or on private land.

With ANPR, the first a driver knows about it is some days later when it is delivered by the postman. This does take some getting used to if you are used to an environment where no ticket on the windscreen meant you had ‘gotten away with it’. Using the technology sustainably, sensibly and sensitively to ensure that the public understand why it is done, why it is necessary and just as importantly what happens to the information is crucial.

Data-sharing is increasingly common and the Protection of Freedoms Act of 2012 came about precisely because there is genuine concern about the use of personal data. A Statutory CCTV Code of Practice became law in June 2013 in support of the Data Protection Act, but applies only to local authorities and the police. The British Parking Association encourages these principles but when it comes to legality, it is the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) that holds the key.

Similarly, surveillance using technology evokes mixed emotions. CCTV to help keep people safe can be reassuring and likewise the need for CCTV can suggest that there is a problem that needs to be monitored. Using ANPR cameras to ensure that every vehicle on the road has insurance, an MoT and improves the general safety of the road is considered acceptable. Use the same technology to monitor people’s movements and it is disliked.

Automatic enforcement can be precise and this very precision brings with it a responsibility to use it carefully but some parking acts are not as clear-cut as the camera might suggest. It is important that there is in place protocols to identify enforcement activity that might be considered unfair or inappropriate.

As for every council making a lot of money out of parking enforcement this is something the law does not allow. The law does not allow local authorities to use parking enforcement to raise revenue, but it does acknowledge that surpluses may be generated when local authorities manage or enforce parking controls applied for traffic management purposes.

The same law dictates what can be done with those surpluses and in the main this means reinvestment in parking services, public transport, and highway schemes to improve road safety and so on.

To describe these surpluses as ‘profit’ is to misunderstand what is happening. Commercial businesses make a profit and shareholders benefit from it. Local authorities provide services to the community and any ‘profit’, or more correctly ‘surplus’ is reinvested in those communities. No individuals in local government and more especially, those in parking services ‘profits’ from these activities.

Some councils choose to publish an ‘Annual Parking Report’ and the British Parking Association has a Parking Practice Note on Annual Reports available to its members. Publishing an annual report on parking and traffic enforcement activity is a great opportunity for local councils and their parking teams to explain how important this work is to everyday life in the UK and how CCTV and ANPR contribute to keeping traffic moving. It should contain information on how parking is managed, what the benefits are and what happens to the money generated, including surpluses. Investment in road safety, public transport, concessionary fare schemes, environmental improvements and so on are all funded from the parking account, but not a lot of people know that.



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